Oral Health Tips for People with Diabetes

As a result of our relationship with DeCare Dental, a leading firm in Ireland for dental insurance, we have an ongoing interest in helping our clients to maintain really good oral health. Thank you to all who commented on our recent series of articles in relation to building strong oral health habits in children.

We now turn our attention to diabetes and the potential impact that this can have on your mouth and oral health. Unfortunately you are 3 times more likely to develop severe gum disease if you have type 2 diabetes. This is a significant issue as it is anticipated that Ireland will have 233,000 people over 20 years of age with diabetes by 2020, corresponding to a prevalence rate in the population of over 7.5%.

Uncontrolled diabetes, where the level of sugar circulating in the blood is higher than normal causes damage throughout the body, including the eyes, kidneys, heart, nerves, blood vessels and the mouth.


How can diabetes affect my mouth?

Too much glucose in your blood from diabetes can cause pain, infection and other problems in your mouth. Your mouth includes teeth, gums and tissues such as your tongue, the roof and bottom of your mouth and the inside of your cheeks. Dry mouth, burning mouth and oral thrush are symptoms of undetected and uncontrolled diabetes. Dry mouth can lead to soreness, ulcers, mouth infections and tooth decay. Smoking has the effect of making these symptoms worse.

Glucose is also present in saliva, a natural lubricant that keeps your mouth moist. When diabetes is not controlled, high glucose levels in your saliva help harmful germs to establish a plaque biofilm, which sticks to the teeth where the gum and teeth meet. This biofilm grows in the presence of sugars from other foods. The biofilm contains different types of bacteria, some of which promote the spread of dental decay and others, gum disease.

Gum disease occurs more often, is more severe and will take longer to heal if you have diabetes. Some studies show that having severe gum disease can make your blood glucose more difficult to control, while treating gum disease can make your blood sugar slightly easier to control.


How plaque can result in serious gum disease

A plaque biofilm if left undisturbed around the gum margin and if not removed daily releases poison which causes gums to become red, swollen and to bleed.

Untreated early gum disease in the presence of diabetes progresses more quickly to periodontitis (serious gum disease). The gums fall away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets, which become infected with the plaque biofilm.


The relationship between diabetes and serious gum disease

A person is three times more likely to develop severe gum disease if they have type 2 diabetes. Untreated gum disease may make blood sugar levels more difficult to control and patients who have comprehensive gum treatment can experience improved diabetic control (reduced HbA1c levels).

Also untreated serious gum disease may affect your general health as untreated serious gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease process that releases enzyme like chemicals that may send harmful signals to other parts of the body. Coronary heart disease, preterm low birth weight babies (PTLB), respiratory infections and diabetes, are examples of health conditions that may be affected by the presence of untreated periodontal (gum) disease.


So what can people with diabetes do to maintain good oral health?

1. Maintain good blood glucose control. This is key to preventing mouth problems.

2. Quit smoking; smoking worsens problems including gum disease.

3. If you brush and floss daily and attend your dentist regularly, you can improve your diabetes.

4. Morning is the optimum time for dental visits as blood sugar is more stable after breakfast.

5. Your dentist may contact your doctor to make your dental visits as comfortable as possible.

6. Your dentist may refer you to a periodontal (gum) specialist if you have severe gum disease.


These are some general tips and of course in no way should replace advice that you will get from your dentist or other medical professions. They are the experts!

However we hope that this article in relation to a growing health issue in Ireland is useful to clients of Lyons Financial Services. Of course if you would like more information about how you might protect yourself against the financial impact of maintaining your dental health, please just give us a call on 01 8015808.