November is Diabetes Awareness Month
Diabetes is a condition that can pose various complications to your oral health. If you are also managing multiple healthcare issues, as are many of the senior patients we see each year, your health risks increase.
In this blog post, we outline complications that can arise from diabetes and that affect oral health, as well as what you can do to keep your mouth and dentures healthy.
How diabetes affects your mouth
Diabetics often have higher than normal amounts of glucose in the blood and this constricts blood vessels. Constricted blood vessels result in a reduced amount of blood and nutrients flowing to your gums and jawbones. This slows your body’s ability to heal and combat infections.
If diabetic patients are not diligent about their oral hygiene, plaque and tartar will form. This can lead to gingivitis (early gum disease), a condition in which the gums are irritated, feel tender, and bleed.
If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious condition called periodontis (advanced gum disease). Periodontis can destroy your soft tissue and jaw bone. As well, it can cause blood glucose levels to rise, which makes controlling diabetes even harder.
If you notice any of the following warning signs, make an appointment to see your denturist right away:
- Gums that bleed while brushing or flossing
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from teeth
- Teeth that are loose or separating from other teeth
- Ongoing bad breath (not caused by something you recently ate)
- A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
Diabetes can lead to decreased saliva, commonly referred to as “dry mouth.” Older denture patients also often experience dry mouth because of some of the medications they take.
More than just a lubricant, saliva contains antibacterial compounds and enzymes which fight inflammation and infection. With reduced amounts of saliva, bacteria accumulate, putting you at risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and thrush. Dry mouth can also be a sign of high blood glucose levels.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth caused by the yeast Candida albicans. Thankfully, practicing good oral hygiene and keeping your blood sugar levels down can help you avoid thrush.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your denturist:
- White patches or a white coating in your mouth or on your tongue
- Cracks at the corners of your mouth
- A loss of taste or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
- A burning sensation
- Redness in your mouth or throat
If you are diabetic and want to prevent gum disease and other conditions from taking hold, a few simple steps will help keep your mouth healthy.
Control your blood glucose level
Monitor your blood sugar level and follow your doctor’s instructions for keeping your blood sugar level within your target range. The better you control your blood sugars, the less likely you are to develop gingivitis and other dental problems.
Brush and floss daily
Brush in the morning, at night and, ideally, after meals and snacks. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Avoid vigorous or harsh scrubbing, which can irritate your gums.
If you have remaining teeth, use dental floss once a day to remove plaque and bacteria that build up between teeth.
Keep your dentures clean
If you wear dentures, remove and clean them daily. Your denturist can recommend a product best suited for cleaning your denture. Diligent cleaning and care of your dentures will result in a lowered risk of infection.
Ensure your dentures fit properly
Denture wearers can sometimes develop denture sores. Diabetics are at increased risk of complications when sores are left untreated. If you develop a sore spot, make an appointment to have the site adjusted.
When your dentures stop fitting properly, speak to your denturist about having them relined or replaced.
See your denturist regularly
It’s possible to have gum disease and not even know it, so take advantage of preventive dental services. A professional may be able to spot signs of gum disease before you have any symptoms.
Also make sure to remind your denturist that you have diabetes. Knowing that will ensure your denturist can provide preventive care to help you manage proper denture and oral health.
Smoking increases the risk of serious diabetes complications, including gum disease and – ultimately – the loss of your teeth. If you smoke, ask your doctor about options to help you quit.
Managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment. Paying extra attention to your denture and oral health can help prevent infections that could make your diabetes worse.