Diabetes: Keep your blood sugar levels in check by taking care of your mouth!

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Written by Dr. Palak

August 11, 2021

Yes! You heard that right. Your oral health paves the path for the overall well-being of your body and taking good care of your teeth actually helps in controlling your blood glucose levels.

 Approximately 11.8% of Indians, which amounts to a whopping 77 million adults, live with this disorder.

According to a study the fasting blood glucose level and HbA1c levels were found to be drastically reduced in diabetics who underwent routine cleaning treatments from their dental professionals. So now we know how important taking care of our oral hygiene is, to fight against diabetes.

Diabetes and oral health

Diabetes is not so much of a disease to be feared, rather a lifestyle disorder with multidimensional causative factors affecting your entire body –from your liver to your muscles, heart and teeth.

The crux of the issue is poor blood sugar management which leads to weakened immune function, that is, your body cells cannot fight bacteria, fungi, viruses etc. Effectively. This makes the body susceptible to various bacterial and fungal infections. Diabetes does not directly affect our teeth, but affects our gums as well as the bones first.

Let us look at how HIGH BLOOD SUGAR deteriorates your oral health and how preventive oral health measures keep your glucose levels in check!

Diabetes and common oral health problems

Certain conditions in your oral cavity act as an indicator for high blood sugar levels. Being vigilant and examining your mouth regularly will be a boon for early detection of diabetes. Watch out for signs like bleeding while brushing, new spaces opening up between the teeth, increasing length of your teeth, foul breath, frequent need to drink water even during winters, white lines or patches or even unusual tissue growths in the mouth.

It would come as a surprise to you, but according to the latest research diabetics are at a higher risk of developing mouth cancer, one of the leading cancers worldwide.
Hence it is vital that you keep a lookout for these signs so as to save yourself from further complications.
Now let us go through these oral problems one by one

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Poor gum health

There exists a two-way relationship between diabetes and periodontal (gum) health.

Mismanagement of blood glucose makes a person prone to bleeding gums (gingivitis) which can be a painful and uncomfortable experience. Inflammation and destruction of the tissues surrounding the teeth can lead to loosening of the tooth and eventually falling off if not treated timely. Not only this the jaw bone also weakens which exacerbates the condition. Gum infections in turn complicate the glycemic control process by elevating the bacterial load in the bloodstream.

Dry mouth (xerostomia)

Excessive urination and increased feeling of thirst are common symptoms of diabetes because of which the sensation of dry mouth develops.
Even certain medications like metformin, inhalers, and antihypertensives(blood pressure controlling drugs) can have such side effects.

Saliva plays a crucial role in flushing the bacteria entering your oral cavity, it protects the teeth from decay, the oral mucosa from ulceration ,aids in speech, mastication as well as in digestion .Hence decreased saliva  is a source of huge discomfort and can affect the quality of life negatively.

Dental infections

Due to immune suppression, diabetics generally experience repeated or recurrent ulcerations in their oral cavity, also fungal contagions like candidiasis(thrush) and mucormycosis. Lichen planus which is another debilitating disorder leading to burning sensation, pain,  swelling of the oral tissues is found to have more prevalence among this poor glycemic control population.

Altered taste

Hypogeusia or diminished taste perception has been reported in a few people suffering from diabetes. This altered taste sensation impairs their ability to maintain a proper diet and result in poor glucose regulation.

Dental caries

Though there are no direct links between diabetes and tooth decay, poor gum health and depressed saliva secretion increase the risk of developing new and recurrent dental caries.

Poor healing

Uncontrolled diabetes induces poor blood circulation, the blood moves slowly hence providing nutrients to the wound at a slow pace. This is responsible for the sluggish healing after any oral surgical procedures like extraction or even cleaning(scaling)done by the dental surgeon.

This is the reason why your dentist won’t advise extraction or wisdom tooth surgery for a diabetic patient.

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Bad breathhtaerrrrarBeB e ddsaaaa

This can be a source of embarrassment for you.

People who suffer from diabetes also suffer from bad breath. The greater the glucose level, the greater is the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria then feed on the food that you eat and metabolize them into sulfur compounds responsible for this odor.

Also a complication of diabetes is ketoacidosis wherein the insulin levels are dangerously lowered and the body cells do not get sufficient energy from blood sugar. In this condition the body cells start converting fat into energy which consequently makes a high amount of acids in the blood called ketones. This ketone imparts a fruity or nail polish like smell to your breath.

Burning mouth

This manifests as a burning, tingling, or even electric shock-like stabbing sensation. This painful experience can take a toll on your life and affect your sleep, alter your anxiety and depression levels. This occurs due to the deterioration of nerves combined with poor glucose control and fungal infections.

How should diabetics take care of their teeth?

Remember, oral hygiene should be a priority for the diabetics. Keep your mouth 100% bacteria-free by practicing oil pulling, flossing, brushing, and tongue cleaning. Practicing these sincerely will save it all. Regular dental visits to a dentist can help you from future dental problems that are coming your way. 6 monthly dental visits to your dentist can help dentists predict and prevent dental complications.

Highlights

  • Your blood sugar levels can be kept under control by taking care of your oral health.
  • Diabetics are at an increased risk of developing several oral health problems.
  • There exists a two way relationship between gum health and diabetes.
  • Poor gum health exacerbates your sugar levels and vice versa.
  • Use a xylitol-free toothpaste and an extra-soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Increased blood sugar levels call for bad breath and altered taste sensations. So clean your tongue regularly to enjoy your favorite meals.
  • Following the basic dental hygiene tips can save it all.

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Dr Palak Anand is a qualified dental surgeon from Pandit BD Sharma University of Health Sciences, Rohtak. A passionate public health enthusiast , an ingenuous empathetic human being who wants to bring about a change in the perception of oral health by leveraging the power of knowledge and a globally connected world. She believes in spreading awareness and educating people in the fight against poor oral health status globally.
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