How Does Diabetes Affect Your Mouth?

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Mouth?

Mar 23, 2023

Diabetes is a potentially serious health condition that happens when the body cannot regulate blood sugars, leading to high blood glucose. If you have diabetes, your risk of oral problems is higher than those without diabetes. For instance, diabetes can affect your immune system cells, making your mouth more vulnerable to bacterial infections like periodontal disease and tooth decay.

Similarly, oral problems like gum disease can make diabetes harder to control or increase your risk of developing it. Therefore, taking great care of your mouth is critical to maintaining a healthy mouth and controlling your blood sugar. This article looks at the relationship between your mouth and diabetes and common oral problems associated with diabetes.

Diabetes and your oral health

For starters, diabetes leads to high blood sugar in the blood. These sugars are also high in your saliva. Oral bacteria feed on these sugars for food, increasing your risk of infections in the teeth, gums, bones, and mouth.

Similarly, diabetes and some of its medications can affect the salivary glands, leading to less saliva production and flow in the mouth. Enough saliva is essential to wash away debris and bacteria and balance the mouth’s pH. Inadequate saliva allows bacteria to thrive and encourage plaque and tartar buildup in the mouth, putting you at a greater risk of infections.

Additionally, high blood sugar interferes with the body’s natural defense mechanism and its ability to fight inflammation and infections. The weakened immune system makes you vulnerable to oral diseases.

Oral conditions associated with diabetes

If your blood sugars aren’t well controlled, you’re at a greater risk of developing the following oral health problems:

  • Gum disease

Gum or periodontal disease is the most common oral problem among people with diabetes. The high sugars in the saliva and weakened immune system make your gums more vulnerable to infections, leading to gum disease. Gingivitis is the first phase of periodontal disease. It causes your gums to feel sore, turn red, and easily bleed, especially when brushing.

When left untreated, gingivitis turns to periodontitis, a more severe periodontal disease that causes severe gum damage, bone loss, receding gums, and even tooth loss. At this stage, you might need more invasive treatments like flap surgery or soft tissue grafting to restore the health of your gums and save your teeth.

  • Dry mouth

Diabetes and some medications can cause reduced saliva production, causing a dry mouth or xerostomia. The risk is even higher for older patients, especially women. A dry mouth increases your risk of oral sores, ulcers, thrush, gum disease, and tooth decay.

  • Oralthrush

People with uncontrolled diabetes are prone to tongue and mouth fungal infections. The high glucose in the saliva makes their mouth a breeding ground for fungus, which can cause a fungal infection called thrush. Thrush often causes painful red or white patches on the tongue and inner cheeks.

  • Burning mouth syndrome

People with diabetes are more vulnerable to dry mouth and thrush, which can lead to burning mouth syndrome. The syndrome makes you feel like you’ve scalded your mouth with coffee. Your mouth might also feel numb, lose your ability to taste, or experience a tingling effect.

  • Slow wound healing

People with unmanaged diabetes often experience poor healing of oral tissues, especially after oral surgery or other invasive oral procedures. Slow wound healing consequently increases your risk of infections which can result in complications. People with diabetes who smoke and take alcohol are at a greater risk of slower wound healing.

  • Tooth decay

Diabetes can increase bacteria growth in the mouth and cause a dry mouth, leading to plaque and tartar buildup. If not cleaned, these deposits release toxic chemicals that erode your teeth’s enamel to cause decay and cavities.

Signs you have oral issues from diabetes

The following symptoms could indicate that you have oral problems associated with diabetes:

  • Swollen, sore, or red gums
  • Bleeding gums, especially when brushing
  • Receding gums (gums that pull away from teeth)
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased spaces between teeth
  • Loose or falling teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity

See your dentist right away if you experience any signs of oral problems.

Do you Need Dental Treatments for Diabetic Patients?

Do you have more questions about diabetes and your oral health? Or do you have symptoms that could indicate oral conditions from diabetes? Contact Stony Brook Dental Group for dental treatment, routine dental exams, and cleanings in Stony Brook, NY.

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