Diabetes and Oral Health
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is a source of fuel. Normally, insulin, a hormone, helps glucose enter the body cells where it is used for energy. There are different types of diabetes. People with Type 1 Diabetes do not produce insulin, and they must take insulin each day. People with Type 2 Diabetes produce insulin, but they either do not produce enough or the insulin does not work like it should. As a result, glucose does not get into the body cells.
People with diabetes need to check their blood glucose levels, alter their diets, exercise, and in some cases, take medications to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Too much or too little glucose in the blood can make people ill and result in medical and dental complications. Uncontrolled diabetes can change the way that food tastes. It can promote dental-related infections and also slow the healing process of infections.
Dental problems can result from uncontrolled blood glucose levels associated with diabetes. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels impair white blood cells that are needed to fight infection. Infections can cause blood glucose levels to rise in people with diabetes. High glucose levels in saliva are fuel for the bacteria in your mouth. Bacteria in the mouth contribute to plaque and tartar build-up on your teeth and gums. This can cause tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. People with poor blood glucose control tend to develop periodontal disease more severely and more frequently than people with good control of their diabetes.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop mouth infections. People with diabetes that smoke, have high blood glucose levels, or take antibiotics have the highest risk for developing mouth infections. Some people develop dry mouth, a condition that causes a decrease in saliva production and contributes to infection. All of these factors can lead to fungal infections in the mouth such as oral candidiasis (thrush).
Treatment for periodontal disease depends on the type of disease and how far it has spread. Initial treatments usually include a professional dental cleaning with scaling and root planning. Scaling is a procedure that removes plaque, tartar, and stains from the tooth surface. Root planning removes plaque and tartar while smoothing the root surface. The smooth surface makes it more difficult for plaque to attach to it. Root planning allows the gum tissues to heal next to the teeth.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.