All the food you eat has two things in common:
- It enters through your mouth
- It turns into sugar
Whereas sugar plays the starring role of ‘bad guy’ in both tooth decay and diabetes, it only figures that your dental team should play a supporting role in diabetes detection and intervention. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), nearly 1 in 4 people with diabetes (22% to be precise) are also living with periodontal disease. That overlap means your dental health should not be overlooked when trying to mitigate and/or improve your medical health.
That overlap is also a two-way street, as periodontal disease can increase diabetic risk and diabetes can increase incidence of periodontal disease. And, scientific data reveals that diabetes makes periodontal disease worse and easier to get. In fact, for pregnant women living with diabetes, gum disease is more likely to develop for them than their non-diabetic counterparts.
Diabetes symptoms and your mouth
There are a number of symptoms from diabetes that will impact your mouth. Regular visits to your dentist and established communication with your dental team can help identify most of them, such as:
- Spit split—If you have been experiencing dry mouth that you can’t attribute to a side effect from medication, this is potentially a symptom of diabetes. Don’t let your spit leave you high and dry without talking to your dentist.
- Cavity count—Less saliva can mean more cavities because spit helps protect your teeth from tooth-munching bacteria.
- Gum goop—Bloody and inflamed gums (gingivitis) is a symptom of diabetes. You may also notice it taking longer for any wound inside your mouth to heal. All this adds to your risk of infection inside the mouth.
- Taste waste—Diabetes can impact your ability to discern taste as precisely as you should. Your dentist isn’t Emeril Lagasse, but bam! he or she can identify when tastelessness is something more serious than plain cooking.
- Tongue trick—Your tongue should turn blue or grow yellow hair, but it can look and feel like it does when someone is pre-diabetic or diabetic. ‘Coated tongue’ is the term dentists use to describe the layering over the tongue that develops.
- Denture adventure—When wearing dentures, the last thing you want is for a good fit to turn into a poor fit. But that can happen when periodontal disease changes the size and shape of anything in your mouth.
Benefits of dental visits in managing diabetes
The numbers tell the story clearly: 1 in 5 cases of tooth loss is linked to diabetes. This connection makes it obvious that regular dental visits are important. And the research backs it up. Treating gum disease can help control blood sugar levels in people living with diabetes, thus decreasing or slowing the progression of the disease. Six simple things you can do to prevent sick gums are:
- Brush with a soft brush at least twice a day and floss once a day.
- Have professional deep cleanings by a dentist.
- Take your diabetes meds to control blood sugar.
- Take a HbA1c lab test to track your level of blood sugar.
- Don’t smoke.
- Clean your dentures if you wear any.
Using your mouth to communicate with your dentist
Anyone living with diabetes should be visiting a dentist at least once a year. Most importantly, in those visits you should be talking with your dentist about your condition. If your sugar levels are being tested regularly and met consistently, consider dental visits twice a year. During those visits, check in with your dentist:
- Names of any medications you are on
- Dosages of any medications you are on
- Blood sugar level test results
At Dentalux, we can’t be your medical doctor. But we are dedicated to the idea of being part of a health and wellness team. We are a safe place to discuss your concerns about diabetes and diabetes prevention. And we are a trained staff that can help detect signs of diabetes. Together, we can prevent this tricky disease and mitigate its impacts if it has already taken root.