How Does Diabetes Affect Your Teeth?

Diabetes affects over 37 million Americans, and more people are living with diabetes and may not know they have the disease. Diabetes can affect everything from your heart health to blood pressure and nerves, but did you know diabetes can affect your oral health too?

Patients who have diabetes and are properly managing the disease won’t necessarily have an increased risk for oral health problems. However, patients with uncontrolled diabetes or those who don’t know they have diabetes can experience issues with their teeth and gums.

So how does diabetes affect your teeth? Here’s what you need to know about diabetes and your oral health.

Oral Health Problems Affecting People with Diabetes

Diabetes Can Alter Saliva Quality

Diabetes can change both the quality and quantity of your saliva. Saliva plays a pivotal role in oral health because it helps buffer teeth from bacteria and acids that can damage tooth enamel and contribute to plaque formation.

People with untreated diabetes can have higher glucose levels, or blood sugar, in their saliva. Higher glucose levels in the saliva, such as those seen with diabetes, can contribute to harmful bacteria that can cause plaque formation, tooth decay, chronic bad breath, and dry mouth.

Some medications for diabetes can also cause dry mouth, which can exacerbate existing dry mouth or worsen the impact of high blood sugar on your oral cavity. Chewing sugarless gum, staying hydrated, and reducing alcohol and caffeine may help improve symptoms of dry mouth.

People With Diabetes Are at Higher Risk for Gum Disease

People with diabetes are more prone to gum disease, also called periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss. In addition, poorly controlled blood sugar can lead to an increased risk of infections (including oral thrush), which can make diabetes harder to control and increase your risk for gum disease.

In cases where diabetes is under control, people with the disease don’t have an increased risk for gum disease. It’s when blood sugar is uncontrolled that gums can swell and bleed and begin to recede from the teeth and periodontal disease can progress more easily.

Your risk for gum disease with diabetes increases if you already have poor oral health in addition to diabetes or have existing gum disease.

Diabetes Can Cause Poor Wound Healing

Diabetes can also affect wound healing in the mouth, so if you need a dental procedure (such as dental implants) or treatment for gum disease, uncontrolled diabetes can compromise your healing process and increase your risk for complications.

It’s essential to tell your dentist if you have diabetes and treat the condition if you need a dental procedure, whether it’s for a cavity, gum disease, or if you need root canal therapy. Your dentist in Asheville will work with you to reduce your risk and give you your best chance for a smooth procedure with proper healing.

Getting your diabetes under control can help you heal properly following a procedure, not just with a dental procedure but with any medical procedure.

Pregnant Women With Diabetes Are More at Risk for Oral Health Issues

If you have unmanaged or poorly controlled diabetes and are expecting, you’re even more at risk for gum disease. Women who are pregnant are already at risk for pregnancy gingivitis, which can cause gum inflammation and bleeding. However, with diabetes, pregnancy can make gum disease even more likely.

When you have diabetes and are expecting a child, it’s essential to keep up with your dental checkups and cleanings to ensure your smile is healthy, as research has linked poor oral health to the health of your growing little one.

Getting teeth cleanings and even getting a cavity filled during pregnancy is safe, so don’t skip your appointments with your dentist in Asheville.

Higher Risk for Tooth Loss

As a result of these effects on the oral cavity, people with type 2 diabetes have a significantly higher risk of tooth loss. This is due to the risk of gum disease that occurs with unmanaged diabetes.

In addition to complicating treatment for diabetes, gum disease may be harder to control with diabetes, so properly treating both conditions is essential for comprehensive health and to reduce your risk of tooth loss, as is proper oral hygiene.

What Can You Do?

Taking the best possible care of your teeth and gums won’t just help you have an attractive smile—it may just support your diabetes treatment and help you be more successful in managing the disease.

So what are some things you can do to help keep your smile healthy and also properly manage your diabetes?

  • Treat your diabetes. If you have diabetes, it’s imperative to treat the condition to control your blood sugar and protect your smile and your body. Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, excessive urination, fatigue, and blurred vision.
  • Limit sugar in your diet. Sugar can increase the risk for both heart disease and diabetes, so limit refined sugar in your diet as much as possible. Instead, focus on fruits that are lower in sugar, including apples, avocadoes, bananas, oranges, and strawberries.
  • Eat healthy. Eating healthy isn’t just about your bodily health—it provides your teeth with the nutrients they need to stay strong and can support beneficial oral bacteria. Eat plenty of fresh foods and limit processed foods or those with sugar if possible.
  • Keep your dental visits. Taking care of your smile is a bigger factor in diabetes than you might think. Although uncontrolled diabetes can affect your oral health, poor oral health can also impact diabetes and limit the success of your treatment. Keeping your dental visits can ensure your teeth and gums are healthy to support your bodily health.

Schedule Your Next Checkup With Us

Saunders DDS works with patients who have diabetes and can help them properly take care of their oral health to support diabetes treatment and minimize the chances of oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease that can lead to tooth loss. Schedule your next checkup with your dentist in Asheville by contacting us at (828) 277-6060 or reach us online by submitting our contact form.