People who have diabetes know the disease can harm the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other important systems in the body. Did you know diabetes can also cause problems in your mouth?
High blood glucose makes you more likely to have gum disease, gingivitis, dry mouth, dental caries (cavities), yeast infection, burning mouth syndrome, lichen planus, or poor wound healing.
With your dentist's help and daily oral care, you can avoid these diabetes-related problems.
The earliest stage of gum disease (called Gingivitis) is a swelling of the gums. The direct cause of gingivitis is plaque, the soft, sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms constantly on the teeth and gums. Classic symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, tender gums that may bleed when brushed. If gingivitis is not treated, it can and often will progress to periodontal disease. Some people may experience recurring bad breath or a bad taste in their mouth, even if the gum disease is not advanced. Untreated, gum disease can lead to destruction of gum tissues and bone loss around the teeth, so it is important to get treatment at the first signs of gum problems.
Diabetes can cause the salivary glands to produce less saliva, causing dry mouth. People with dry mouth often complain of problems with eating, speaking, swallowing and wearing dentures. In addition, people with diabetes may experience more tooth decay. The decay can progress quickly depending on the severity of the dry mouth. Untreated tooth decay can lead to nerve damage and tooth loss if not treated promptly.
People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from yeast infections, including Oral Candida. Candida is present in the mouth of almost half of the U.S. population and is prevalent in people with diabetes. Candida infection is treated with anti-fungal drugs that are applied locally or taken as pills. Denture wearers often suffer from candida infection. Treatment includes anti-fungal drugs for both the person and the dentures. Clean the dentures thoroughly, and soak or line them with anti-fungal medication.
Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory disease that appears as thin white lines, sores or plaques on the inside of the cheeks, tongue and gums. Redness, ulcers, and blisters may or may not be present. Treatment may include applications of a steroid cream or taking steroids in pill form. The use of steroids in people with diabetes may create problems because steroids can counter the action of insulin, resulting in high blood glucose levels. Therefore, if your dentist recommends steroid therapy, close consultation with your doctor is important to avoid adverse reactions and drug interactions.
Burning mouth syndrome is a chronic, painful condition with no visible symptoms... just a burning feeling of the tongue, lips, and other parts of the mouth. The causes are largely unknown but researchers believe that uncontrolled diabetes, hormone therapy, psychological disorders, nerve damage, dry mouth, and Oral Candida may play a role.
Good blood glucose control is the key to controlling and preventing mouth problems. People with poor blood glucose control get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled. Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups and good blood glucose control are the best defence against the oral complications of diabetes.
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