Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience.
Just as diabetes affects almost every system in your body, it can also affect your mouth. But with timely care and the right approach, you can easily control the damage and take care of your teeth and oral health.
Diabetes can affect your gum health
Diabetes increases the chances of gum disease. You may notice pain, and your gums may be frequently swollen with pus. In severe cases, it may not respond to routine treatment and can take longer to heal if the blood sugar levels are not in control. In cases of severe gum disease (periodontitis), the bone that supports your teeth is also destroyed, putting you at a higher risk of losing more teeth compared to those who do not have diabetes.
Why does this happen?
High sugar in the blood causes harmful bacteria to grow. This causes plaque, which can lead to infection in your gums. Also, as your immunity decreases and there is nerve damage and inflammatory problems, the condition can get more prominent.
Some cases of diabetes may cause vision impairment. If there is nerve damage due to diabetes, it can cause muscle weakness and numbness in the hands. In such cases, it can get difficult to carry out even regular oral hygiene procedures and can increase the risk of gum disease.
If you regularly smoke, you are adding fuel to the fire because smoking further worsens your gum condition.
It’s a two-way relationship
While diabetes makes you more susceptible to periodontitis, the gum disease can also affect your blood sugar management and the risk of diabetes complications.
Serious gum infection causes inflammation in the entire body, which can increase blood sugar levels and make it harder for you to control your diabetes.
Diabetes, together with severe periodontitis, can also increase the risk of kidney failure. When there is kidney or heart-related complication as a result of diabetes, along with severe gum disease, it can be fatal.
There are other effects too
Diabetes can damage your oral health in other ways as well.
Dry mouth, or Xerostomia, is a common condition in diabetes when your mouth does not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. High blood sugar dries the inner lining of your mouth, and your salivary glands may not be able to produce sufficient saliva if your nerves are damaged. Some medicines that are used to treat diabetes can also cause reduced production of saliva.
Dry mouth can make your mouth sore and create problems with chewing, eating or swallowing. It also increases the risk of tooth decay.
High sugar in the blood leads to the growth of harmful bacteria that cause plaque. If your diabetes is associated with consumption of high-calorie carbohydrate-rich food your teeth are more likely to be exposed to foods that cause tooth cavity. These factors increase your risk of developing cavities.
Loss of taste
Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to diabetes) can affect your ability to detect taste. Loss of taste sensation may make it hard for you to maintain a proper diet.
High sugar levels in the saliva, decreased salivary flow and reduced immunity boost the growth of Candida, a type of fungus, in your mouth and cause oral candidiasis (oral thrush). This causes painful white or red patches in the mouth which may become ulcers.
If you are not controlling your diabetes properly, it can decrease your immunity and delay the process of healing. In such a condition, if you undergo any surgery in the mouth, your risk of infection is increased. Also, your wound may take a very long time to heal and it can be harder to control your blood sugar levels after the surgery.
Good sugar control is the best defence
- Diabetes isn’t the real problem. High blood glucose is. Controlling your blood sugar can help prevent and manage your gum disease.
- Maintain good oral hygiene. It can prevent plaque build-up and prevent gum disease. Using an electric toothbrush can also help in case of nerve damage, as it impairs your ability to maintain daily oral hygiene.
- Avoid smoking and meet your dentist every 6 months.
- Frequent dental checkups can help diagnose and treat any effects that diabetes has on your teeth and gums.
Treating your gum disease at an early stage can help you keep your blood sugar levels under control as well.