Diabetes & Your Dental Health: What’s the Link?

Diabetes is a serious condition that compromises the body’s ability to control its blood sugar levels, leading to a multitude of health problems (including dental health issues) if left uncontrolled. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps to control the body’s blood sugar and transport it to the cells for energy. Someone suffering with diabetes doesn’t have enough insulin to control their blood sugar, so they may have to medicate themselves with doctor-prescribed insulin in order to stay healthy. In addition, a higher level of sugar in the blood can compromise multiple bodily processes and increase the risk for various conditions, including periodontal (gum) disease.

Most Common Types of Diabetes

There are a few different types of diabetes, but the more commonly experienced types are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children and infants, but it can show up later in life as well. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin at all, leaving a dangerously high level of sugar in the blood without the use of physician-prescribed insulin. Type 1 diabetes can be treated with injectable insulin, blood glucose monitoring, and diet modifications.

Type 2 Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 84 million Americans are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes—the type that causes the body to stop responding to its own insulin production. The people that are most often affected by type 2 diabetes are middle-aged adults and seniors. To treat the condition, they have to monitor their blood sugar periodically, make diet modifications, implement an exercise regimen, and take medications (including injectable insulin).

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. Doctors and researchers don’t know the definitive reason why women develop diabetes during their pregnancies, but there are some theories. Researchers believe that it could develop because the placenta releases insulin-counteracting hormones which raise the mother’s blood sugar. It can be treated with diet and exercise, but the blood sugar tends to return to normal levels once the baby is born.

The Effects of Diabetes on Your Teeth

High blood sugar increases your risk for gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss. According to the American Dental Association, “one in five cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes.” Often times diabetic symptoms such as dry mouth and a bad taste in the mouth can cause plaque to build up on the teeth, directly worsening pre-existing gum disease or increasing your risk for developing it. Furthermore, high blood sugar means that healing may be delayed, causing complications for those that need dental work.

What is the best thing you can do for your teeth if you are diabetic? Make sure to tell your dentist that you are diabetic and make more frequent dental visits than generally recommended (every 3-4 months instead of every 6 months), keep your blood sugar in check, and continue brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily.

Advanced DDS is a premiere dental practice in Long Island, NY where all of our dentists are experienced treating patients with a variety of pre-existing conditions, including diabetes. Schedule your dental appointment at 516-825-1100 today!

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