Diabetes, which affects more than 25 million Americans, can cause problems such as kidney failure, lower-limb amputation, and blindness, but the disease’s oral health complications are not a matter to overlook. According to a study published in last month’s Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), almost one out of every five cases of edentulism, or complete tooth loss, in the U.S. is linked to diabetes
The study, which used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and included more than 2,500 participants aged 50 years and older, explored the rates of tooth loss in people with and without diabetes. According to the study, 28 percent of people with diabetes suffered edentulism — twice the rate of those without diabetes.
How Can Diabetes Affect Your Teeth?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how your body produces and uses insulin, the hormone used to help the body absorb glucose. People diagnosed with diabetes often have to change their lifestyles. They must watch the foods they eat, the exercises they perform, and the medications they take — all steps to help maintain their blood glucose levels.
If left uncontrolled, higher blood sugar levels elevate the risk for oral health problems; according to the National Institutes of Health, about one-third of people diabetes also have severe periodontal disease. Diabetes increases sugars and starches in saliva and provides more fuel for bacteria to grow. Without the proper care, plaque forms along the gums, which can be the starting point for an infection.
When compounded with diabetes’ weakening of the immune system, the body struggles to fight off these oral infections, and gingivitis develops. Symptoms include sensitive and/or receding gums that bleed easily during and after brushing, a change in gum color, and bad breath. Untreated gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that separates the gum from the teeth and can eventually result in tooth loss.
Don’t Let Diabetes Ruin Your Smile
Diabetes can elevate the risk for gum disease and tooth loss, but prevention is in your hands. The most important step in preventing any dental problems related to diabetes is controlling blood glucose level. Keeping your diabetes in check relieves the effects of dry mouth and reduces the chances for infections. Also, if Dr. Fitzgerald recommends any surgical procedures, such as dental implants, a controlled blood sugar level will help the healing process.
Proper attention to dental care goes a long ways in combating the toll diabetes takes on your body. The effect of diabetes can be a harmful two-way street; according to the American Association of Periodontology, advanced periodontal disease makes it more difficult for people with diabetes to maintain their blood sugar levels. Control this with a good oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
Schedule a cleaning appointment with Dr. Fitzgerald every six months to keep your smile full and bright. If, however, you have already suffered tooth loss, call to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Fitzgerald to discuss whether dental implants can be a solution to restore your smile!