Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans nationwide. Many individuals affected by this disease know most of the possible health risks associated with diabetes. What may come as a surprise are the dental and oral hygiene risks.
The American Diabetes Association shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among diabetics. Not only does gum disease occur more often in those with diabetes, but also serious gum disease affects blood glucose levels and potentially contributes to the progression of diabetes.
Why are diabetics at an increased risk? Diabetes affects the body’s defenses, and places individuals at greater susceptibility towards infections. Gum disease is the result of bacteria invading spaces between your gums and teeth. Without proper brushing and flossing, the bacteria can spread and destroy the bone around teeth and tissues of gums. Because of the increased susceptibility to bacterial infections, gum disease poses a greater threat for diabetics.
Along with gum disease, diabetics may experience other oral health complications. Uncontrolled blood sugars decrease the saliva production in the mouth causing symptoms of thirst and dry mouth. This may further cause bleeding and ulcer formation if not corrected. When saliva is present, it usually contains high sugar content due to increased blood sugars. Thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth, may develop and feed off of the sugars in those with uncontrolled diabetes.
How can you help prevent against diabetes-associated gum disease? The first step is keeping your blood sugar levels under control. Regular maintenance of dental and oral hygiene like brushing at least twice a day, flossing regularly, staying up to date with oral check-ups, and, if applicable, removing and cleaning dentures daily will aid in protection.
Avoiding smoking is another way to protect yourself. According to WebMD.com, diabetics who smoke are up to 20 times more likely to encounter gum disease and thrush than nonsmokers. The impaired blood flow caused by smoking reduces the healing capacity of tissues, thus increasing chances of infection.