How Does Diabetes Cause Oral Health Problems?

Diabetes is a disorder that causes blood sugar to be too high in the body, which can lead to a range of symptoms and even life-threatening infections or heart problems.

People with diabetes may produce too much or too little insulin, or none at all, which causes blood sugar to drop above or below the normal range.

If left untreated, diabetes can lead to nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, and even problems with vision.

You may have also heard that diabetes can cause dental problems, but how exactly does this happen? Here, we break down how high blood sugar can cause problems with your teeth and gums.

High Glucose Levels Can Cause More Plaque

When untreated, diabetes can result in high blood sugar. Glucose, your body’s natural blood sugar, can affect the amount of sugar in your saliva. So, if the glucose in your blood is high, it can also be high in your saliva.

Since oral bacteria can increase with sugar, as more are needed to break down sugar in the oral cavity, higher glucose levels can lead to increased levels of oral bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. This also explains why when you consume sugar in your diet, you have a higher risk of tooth decay.

In addition, diabetes can also cause dry mouth, which can worsen the effect of high glucose levels on your teeth and make enamel erosion and cavities more likely.

If you have diabetes and your blood sugar is under control, you won’t have as much risk of oral health problems such as plaque buildup, gum inflammation, and cavities as someone who has untreated or undiagnosed diabetes.

Diabetes Can Cause Gum Inflammation and Disease

Research establishes that diabetes is a major risk factor for gum inflammation and disease. Diabetes impacts the immune system, meaning the body may not be as capable of fighting off an infection, such as the infection seen in gum disease. And as we’ve seen, people with untreated diabetes have a higher risk of periodontal disease due to increased plaque and high blood sugar.

However, the relationship between diabetes and gum disease goes both ways. While diabetes can make gum disease more likely, existing gum disease can also make diabetes harder to control because of the glucose levels in your saliva. Therefore, treating gum disease and diabetes, should you have both conditions, is integral to your overall health.

Since diabetes can also cause dry mouth, which can disrupt oral bacteria, it can exacerbate the symptoms of gum disease, such as chronic bad breath, bleeding gums, and red or tender gum tissue.

Oral Infections May Be More Likely With Diabetes

Since diabetes can impact the immune system, oral infections, such as oral thrush, may be more likely if you have diabetes.

How does this happen?

Diabetes increases the risk for arterial plaque—plaque that builds up in the arteries that help carry blood, nutrients, and white blood cells to different areas in the body. If you have diabetes, your body may be less able to heal itself because blood and nutrient flow to tissues decreases. This can lead to problems with wound healing and an increased risk of infections.

While diabetes can result in a greater risk of infections, it also increases the risk of oral infections. This is because your body cannot fight off bacteria as well as it should, which can exacerbate existing gum disease or even lead to oral thrush, a fungal infection in the oral cavity.

Delayed Healing After Oral Surgery

If you need any type of oral procedure, such as a tooth extraction, root canal, or gum surgery, having diabetes can cause delayed wound healing and, as we’ve seen, an increased risk of infection. If your diabetes is well-managed, the risk will be minimal, but it’s still important to be mindful of the risk and to follow your Asheville dentist’s instructions for healing.

People who have diabetes may have lower immunity and a reduction in blood flow that can delay wound healing after oral surgery. If you have diabetes, talk with your dentist about your health condition prior to any oral surgical procedures, so your doctor can make every effort to reduce your risk and ensure a healthy healing process.

You May Be at Higher Risk for Tooth Loss

If you have diabetes, you are more likely to experience tooth loss than someone who does not. This is because of the increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay with diabetes, which can lead to cavities, gum inflammation, and loose teeth.

Taking the best care of your oral health can help ensure you keep your risk for tooth loss to an absolute minimum. This means brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist every six months for checkups. In addition, managing your diabetes is crucial to your bodily wellness and oral health.

If you have active gum disease, you may have fewer options for tooth replacement. You’ll need to treat any existing oral health conditions before getting dentures or dental implants to replace your missing teeth.

Oral Care Tips for People With Diabetes

If you are living with diabetes, it’s crucial to take care of your oral health as well as your body. Since high blood sugar can impact your risk for cavities and gum disease, managing diabetes can help lower your risk and keep your body and your smile healthy.

People with diabetes should also:

  • Keep their bi-annual dental visits
  • Brush their teeth twice a day and floss daily
  • Consider quitting smoking
  • Eat healthy
  • Let their dentist know if they have diabetes

If you are pregnant and have diabetes, you may be at higher risk for dental problems, so don’t put off visiting your Asheville dentist during your pregnancy.

Take the Best Care of Your Smile No Matter What

Saunders DDS is here to help you take the best care of your smile whether or not you’re living with diabetes. Let our friendly, experienced dental professionals help you protect your teeth and gums for a lifetime of smiling. Give us a call today to book an appointment at (828) 277-6060 or reach us online.

Saunders DDS can transform your smile and protect your dental health! Call (828) 277-6060 to book your appointment or visit us online. “Let’s keep you happy, inside and outside!