The Australian Diabetes Council has indicated that 3.6 million Australians and 366 million people worldwide are living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes(1)! So what is diabetes exactly and how does it relate to Oral health?
Diabetes is a chronic disease, whereby the body is unable to produce an adequate supply of insulin or the body is unable to use the available insulin effectively which increases glucose levels in the blood. Insulin is needed for glucose to enter the cells and convert energy for the body to function properly.
There are 2 categories of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes: where the pancreas ceases to produce insulin needed for the body. Type 1 diabetes represents about 10-15% of all cases of diabetes, is a typical chronic childhood disease but can be diagnosed in adulthood and is NOT caused by lifestyle or diet factors. Treatment requires daily insulin therapy and is a life-long condition.
- Type 2 Diabetes: where the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin and it is not working effectively. Type 2 represents about 85-90% of cases being the most prevalent diabetes reported, with risks of diagnosis being increased by family history, lifestyle factors – poor diet, being overweight and lack of physical activity, is preventable and can generally be managed though diet and lifestyle modifications.
So what does diabetes mean for you and your mouth?
- Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease: people with diabetes have an increased risk of having gum disease, thought to be caused by immune changes. People with uncontrolled diabetes with high blood glucose levels are 2-3 times more likely to develop gum disease (2).
Diabetes and the health of the gums are closely linked, with research suggesting that gum disease presence can cause blood glucose levels to rise, and high blood glucose levels can cause gum disease. This highlights the importance of careful blood glucose monitoring by individuals living with diabetes.
- Dry mouth: is a common symptom, which can be caused from constant or excessive urination and some diabetic medications.
Decreased saliva can also contribute to more plaque buildup, which can exacerbate gum disease processes.
- Increased decay risk: glucose or sugars gather in the gingivival fluid between the tooth and gums and can increase your risk of dental cavities (2).
- Oral Thrush: a fungal infection
- Reduced healing: poorly controlled diabetes can impact upon healing times, which can impact on certain dental treatments such as extractions.
Therefore, diabetes should be appropriately managed in combination with your general practitioner and dental professional.
So what can you do to reduce your risk of oral complications??
- Regularly check and maintain blood glucose levels.
- Visit the dentist or dental hygienist regularly – every six months – to have a thorough examination, including full periodontal or gum assessment and maintenance cleaning.
- Establish and maintain oral hygiene practices – brushing twice daily with fluoride tooth paste and flossing once daily.
- QUIT smoking – this has many general and oral health consequences. Speak with your GP or dental practitioner regarding cessation plans and support to help you butt out.
- Eat prior to all dental visits.
- Schedule dental visits in the morning, when insulin levels are optimum.
People with poorly controlled diabetes have a higher risk of tooth problems and gum disease. It is important to pay particular attention to your oral health and control your blood glucose levels. Visit your dentist regularly for advice about how to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Dentalspa is a Geelong dentist that aspires to provide you with a holistic approach to your dental health, and would like to be partners in helping to manage your diabetes and to improve oral health outcomes. Please contact us for any assistance or questions you may have about care for your teeth and diabetes in Geelong, whether it be for children with diabetes or adults with pre-diabetes or diabetes conditions.
For more information on diabetes please visit:
- Diabetes and oral health – Better Health Channel
1) Australian Diabetes Council (2012) Australia. Diabetes Facts. Accessed 11th July 2013.
2) Diabetes Australia (2009) Oral Health and Diabetes. Accessed 11th July, 2013.