Diabetes caused due to rise in blood sugar levels is a matter of concern globally. As stated by the International Diabetes Federation, 88 million people in the Southeast Asia region are prey to diabetes. Out of this 88 million, 77 million people are from India. The most common aetiology can be traced to the sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle of people residing in metro cities. Lowering blood sugar levels is possible through dietary changes, regular exercise, and a timely course of medications. In addition to this, proper and effective oral hygiene practices are the significant preventive factors. Flossing is one such method that can reduce or control your blood sugar levels. Let’s understand this co-relation in depth.
How high blood sugar levels affect your mouth
Most people know diabetes affects overall health. Often what people don’t know about is how diabetes affects oral health. The association between diabetes and oral health is linked to “high blood sugar levels”. Bacteria devour to be in love with sugar. High sugar levels in the blood act as a free feast for the micro-organisms through which they enter the bloodstream. This can lead to tooth decay, cavities, bad breath, and gum diseases.
If you have diabetes, these micro-organisms also attract a large amount of plaque which is another contributing factor to gum disease. The reason for damaging effects on oral health in diabetics is due to the difference in nature, intensity of the bacteria, and the host’s response to these micro-organisms. If you do not have your blood sugar levels controlled, gum diseases can progress to Periodontitis, Loosening of teeth, and alveolar bone loss. Other symptoms you could experience as a diabetic include salivary dysfunction, dry mouth, burning mouth, and increased risk of fungal infections.
Saliva exerts a flushing action due to which bacterial growth is prevented. It also guards the hard tissues against decay. This salivary function is altered in diabetics jeopardizing the teeth to increase the chance of dental caries.
How can diabetes affect your gums?
Gum disease and diabetes are a two-way streets. High blood sugar levels after meals cause bacteria lodgement around your gums and teeth. This increases the amount of plaque in the mouth.
Diabetes also causes changes in the walls of blood vessels. The vessels become thick and impair blood flow to the gum tissues. This altered blood flow caused the gums to become inflamed and swollen. The reduced blood flow also affects the surrounding tissues and results in periodontitis and the destruction of bone.
People with diabetes develop resistance to insulin, which causes their blood glucose levels to remain high. When we eat food, our bodies break down the carbohydrates into glucose, which is the form of energy our bodies use. Healthy levels of glucose are necessary for cell function and wound healing. However, extremely high levels of glucose can interfere with white blood cells’ ability to fight gum infection.
What happens if you don’t floss?
The majority of people consider flossing as an “option” to toothbrushing or don’t put it to good use unless prescribed by the dentist.
When you don’t floss, there is gradual entrapment of bacteria and a subsequent increase in plaque levels in between the teeth. On the contrary, these bacteria release endotoxins which cause swelling and bleeding gums (gingivitis). This inflammation exceeds further if the blood sugar levels remain incessantly high or if the individual is not aware of flossing as an oral hygiene practice. This host response to the bacteria destroys the fiber attachment and causes loosening of teeth (periodontitis).
Diabetes is commonly associated with an increased bacterial load of gram-negative bacteria like Bacteroides, however, Staph aureus, candida, Lactobacillus, and E. coli (mouth infection bacteria) can also be found. As the disease progresses These micro-organisms can disintegrate the trapped food particles and produce sulphur compounds which is the main reason behind bad breath.
Mouth infections and increased stress levels
In addition to the increased bacterial load in the mouth, diabetics suffer from dry mouth due to poor salivary flow. Both these conditions make the mouth more prone to oral infections.
Also as mentioned earlier, abnormally high blood glucose levels impair wound healing and the inability of the body to fight these infections.
Improper tooth brushing and failing to use a floss can further amplify the effects of diabetes in your mouth leading to mouth infection ulcers, or bacterial and fungal infections.
Increased susceptibility to infection in the mouth causes the release of stress hormones in the body. Elevated levels of stress hormones also have deleterious consequences on the body.
Stress hormones shoot up blood sugar levels
Stress hormones convert glycogen into glucose in the liver which raises blood glucose levels. High-stress levels in the body thus cause an increase in blood sugar levels which further worsen the diabetic conditions. Hence, preventive measures are the gist of maintaining blood glucose levels.
One such method is — Flossing. Oral hygiene maintenance is of utmost importance in diabetic patients as it is commonly said, “oral health is the mirror of systemic health”.
Benefits of flossing teeth for diabetics
So how does flossing help lower your blood sugar levels?
Floss consists of small, thin, soft threads specially designed to engage in between the teeth. Regular flossing of teeth
- Decreases the bacterial load in the mouth by effectively cleansing all the surfaces of the teeth.
- Thus, it reduces the risk of gingivitis and further progression to periodontitis.
An efficaciously and adequately cleansed oral cavity
- Reduces the susceptibility to infections
- Thus keeps the stress hormones at bay
Flossing prevents the build-up of yellowish coloured plaque on your teeth. It prevents the entrapment of food particles for a longer period in the mouth and thereby eliminates bad breath too.
Flossing mainly helps to lower blood glucose levels since it timely and effectively cleanses the teeth and destroys all the harmful bacteria. Hence, they are further prevented from entering the bloodstream and this is how they alter the blood sugar levels.
The bottom line
Diabetes is the most common systemic disease with a high prevalence globally. It not only exerts influence on systemic health but also the oral health of the patient. Maintaining adequate oral hygiene is one getaway to surpass the harmful effects of diabetes. Flossing is one such easy readily available method to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
- Diabetes is a debilitating disease caused due to high blood sugar levels.
- It increases the bacterial load, particularly in the oral cavity of the patients.
- It predisposes the individual to an increased risk of infections.
- Gums are commonly affected leading to gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Flossing is a protective measure against the dangerous effects of diabetes.
- Flossing reduces the bacterial load, prevents plaque accumulation, and enhances the smile and self-confidence of the individual.
- Flossing once a day along with toothbrushing twice a day keeps your blood sugar levels at bay.
- Keep your blood sugar levels in check by taking care of your mouth.