Diabetes and oral health – what you need to know

Diabetes is a common health issue that affects millions of people. Oral health problems are more common for people with diabetes, so ensuring teeth and gums are well looked after is important.

As a dental health professional, you can help people to reduce their chances of developing complications from diabetes. In this post we share ways that you can help your patients look after their teeth and gums – essential to helping people learn to live with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Increased risk of tooth decay

People with diabetes can experience high blood sugar levels for a long period of time. Having a high level of sugar in the blood can lead to more sugar in saliva, and resultantly more bacteria which erode tooth enamel and damage gums. In addition to explaining the importance of managing blood sugar levels to patients with diabetes, it is also important that they brush their teeth regularly and see dentists at least twice per year.

Increased risk of gum disease

People who have diabetes may have prolonged periods of high blood glucose levels. This can increase the risk of oral health problems like gum disease. It is important to prevent gum disease or at least catch it at the gingivitis stage. Identifying gum disease early, means that it can be reversed through improved oral hygiene.

Gum disease and heart problems

Research suggests that people who have gum disease may have a higher risk of heart disease since bacteria in the gums can result in reduced blood flow to the heart. As people with diabetes are at a higher risk of having high cholesterol, it is especially important to explain to them the importance of maintaining good oral health and preventing gum disease.

Modification of dental treatments

Some patients with diabetes may have high blood sugar that can affect the time it takes for gums to heal. This is important to consider when carrying out procedures

such as having a tooth removed. Patients should be told to contact their diabetes healthcare team and/or dentist for advice if they feel that their healing time is taking longer than expected.

Reduce/ stop smoking

In addition to following a health, balanced diet low in sugar, dentists should help and encourage patients with diabetes to refrain from smoking. Smoking not only increases the risk of numerous health conditions including oral cancer, but it can also weaken the immune system, making it harder for patients to fight gym infections.

Key takeaway

Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of having poor oral health. It is important to talk to patients about these risks and help them to maintain a good oral health regime.

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