Dr Sunitha Carnelio, Professor and Head Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Manipal College of Dental Sciences, MAHE (MANIPAL)
Last week, my maid Lakshmi complained to me of gum pain which she often experiences on and off and would neglect because of her busy working schedule. I advised her to visit my dentist friend who could treat her. Two days later she reports to me and says the dental doctor did treat her gums prior to which advised her for blood investigation. Further going through the blood report she was advised to visit a physician because of her high sugar levels. The question now arises: does diabetes affect oral health? Diabetes once thought to be the disease of the rich has been affecting the poor frequently. What could be the reason? Is it because of sedentary lifestyle or lack of awareness? It has been estimated approximately more than 300 million people world-wide suffer from this disease and said to double by year by 2030.
A form of diabetes seen in adults called Type 2 diabetes mellitus is considered to as a new epidemic, were-in insulin production by pancreas is decreased. Diabetes can be seen in the young, pregnant women or could also be because of other diseases affecting the pancreas, or medications prescribed for other systemic diseases, the side effect leading to this disease.
Can Diabetes affect your oral health ?
Yes, it does. It causes periodontal diseases such has low gum disease (gingivitis) or severe gum disease (periodontist) which may be experienced with individuals with high sugar levels in the blood which is often considered two fold increased with this disease. Some experience bad breath (halitosis) because of gum disease
Dryness of the mouth is also related often to high sugar levels were individuals feel thirsty and keep sipping water very often, risk of tooth decay due to dryness, lack of cleansing action of saliva leading to bacteria accumulation on the tooth surface, if not treated can lead to pain, abscess and tooth loss. Increase sugar level in blood will house many bacteria and aggravate the gum disease in from of pus from the gums or in between the teeth, sometime an oral ulcer due to trauma may take long time to heal due increased sugar level in blood.
Individuals wearing dentures, known to have diabetes can also suffer from oral fungal disease called candidiasis. A painful, burning feeling of lips, tongue, or entire mouth or change of taste can be felt by a few of these individuals that should raise a suspicion.
Fluctuation of sugar levels will have an effect on the gums which is felt like pain and loosening of the teeth because of bone loss.The overall immunity of a individual will be decreased. Persistent high blood glucose levels leads other complications affecting the heart, kidney, eye and nervous system.
Tests for routine blood glucose levels
What do I do if am diagnosed to have diabetes and oral health issues?
1. Take medication as prescribed by your doctor.
2. Maintain good general health practices like eating nutritious food and regular exercises.
3. Visit your dentist and inform regarding all your medical issues and the medications that you take regularly.
4. A complete oral health care is very important. Oral prophylaxis (cleaning of teeth and gums) is the first step of dental care followed by treatment for all other dental issues. Your dentist will give you necessary dental health care advices (like tooth brushing method, type of tooth brush to be used, use of mouthwashes, flossing etc)
5. Once all dental issues are rectified, six months to one year maintenance visit is essential.
It is important to practice good oral care habits at home to keep your teeth and gums free from all infections. Timely care can help protect your oral health, as well as manage your diabetes.
Thus effective oral hygiene measures are very important for diabetic patients due to their increased susceptibility to oral disease. Hence consulting a dentist and advice from a physician could help in preventive and therapeutic measures for the management of diabetes and periodontal diseases.