How Diabetes Affects Your Oral Health

More than 30 million people in the United States had diabetes in 2015, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes is a condition in which your body has trouble processing sugar, also known as glucose. Those who suffer from diabetes either do not produce insulin, or their bodies can’t use insulin efficiently. Diabetes can cause harm to your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart, but did you know that it could also cause oral health problems?

Types of Diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes often onsets during childhood and is caused by a pancreas that does not make enough or any insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps “unlock” your muscle cells so that they can absorb glucose, or sugar, from the bloodstream. This type of diabetes can be life-threatening if left untreated and is often referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, often caused by diet and or lifestyle, the body cells do not respond to insulin, so the cells do not absorb the glucose.

When body cells do not absorb the sugar, the glucose begins to accumulate to high levels in the bloodstream. High glucose levels, also known as hyperglycemia, are the main characteristic of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes symptoms and type 2 diabetes symptoms are similar and often include the following:

People with diabetes use diet, exercise, and medication or insulin pumps to control blood sugar. However, even with these measures, blood sugar levels may be difficult for some to control. Oral health problems are more likely to develop with poorly controlled blood sugar. In other words, the higher your blood sugar levels stay, the more likely you are to develop oral health problems.

Common Oral Health Problems Caused by Diabetes

Untreated or poorly maintained diabetes and the resulting high blood sugar can negatively affect tissues throughout your body, including the tissues in your mouth. This is because blood sugar levels in the body help regulate your saliva, gum health, and other aspects of your oral health. The following are common problems for those with untreated or poorly maintained diabetes:

How Your Gum Health and Diabetes Are Connected

The types of bacteria that cause gum disease thrive on sugars, meaning those with diabetes are more likely to have gingivitis or periodontal disease. If you suffer from gingivitis or periodontal disease, your blood sugar level will rise. The rise in blood sugar may be due to bacteria from gum disease leaking into the bloodstream when you chew food or brush your teeth. Your body reacts to the presence of bacteria in your bloodstream by producing powerful substances that affect the body in several ways, including raising your blood sugar levels. This is why many healthcare professionals recognize the relationship between gum disease and diabetes as a two-way street.

The ADA also says that compared with people with healthy gums, those with severe gum disease have higher long-term blood glucose levels. People with severe gum disease are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes and are more likely to have trouble controlling their blood glucose levels. It has also been found that those with severe gum disease and diabetes are at a higher risk of suffering harm from complications of diabetes, such as eye problems, kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Ways to Keep Your Gums Healthy

Keeping your gums healthy can improve your oral health and help you manage your blood sugar levels. You can improve the health of your gums with a few lifestyle changes.

Understanding the connections between diabetes and oral health can help you manage both conditions. For more information on how diabetes affects your oral health, you can talk with your doctor and dentist for their professional recommendations.

Serving the North Raleigh area for 19 years, VP Dental is dedicated to treating each patient as an individual and focuses on total body health. The team stays current using the very latest in dental technology, wellness practices, and concierge dental care practices. Our goal is to create relationships that make people look and feel their best.

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