Diabetes and Gum Disease

Woman holding card showing rotten teeth from gum disease

Health tips | Hygiene | 15 Sep 2021

Keeping your mouth, gums and teeth healthy with a great oral health routine is an important part of managing your diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is quite likely that you may have prolonged high blood glucose levels. This may increase your risk of oral health problems, such as gum disease.

It is important to know that having diabetes does not mean you meet the threshold to get free NHS dental treatment. You will still need to book regular check-ups with your dentist and keep up with your oral health routine.

Due to the way diabetes affects different aspects of your body, you are more at risk of dental issues like gum disease. Gum disease or periodontal disease is a common complication of diabetes.

In this blog we will try help you understand why you are at risk and how to keep your mouth healthy.

The link between diabetes and gum disease

The link between diabetes and oral health problems is high blood sugar. If your blood sugar is poorly controlled, oral health issues are more likely to develop.

Gum disease is common regardless of whether anyone has any health conditions or not. Most people will get some form of gum disease at least once in their life. But the truth is, once you have diabetes, you’re more at risk.

People with type 2 diabetes are around three times more likely to develop dental problems than those who do not. People with type 1 diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

This is because…

One of the most common causes of gum disease is having high blood sugar levels for long periods of time. Too much sugar in your blood often means that there is an increase of sugar in your saliva, which is a perfect breeding ground bacteria in your mouth. This bacterium produces acids in your mouth which attacks your tooth enamel and damages your gums.

As previously mentioned, if the blood sugar is poorly controlled, oral health problems are more likely to develop. This is because uncontrolled diabetes weakens the body’s white blood cells, which are the body’s main defence against bacterial infections that can occur in the mouth.

High blood sugar can also damage the blood vessels in your gums themselves, which makes your gums more susceptible to infection.

And unfortunately, it affects you the other way around as well. If you develop gum disease or an oral infection, it can work in reverse and increase your blood sugar levels. If left unnoticed or untreated, this can lead to other complications such as heart disease.

What to remember about gum disease and diabetes

Looking after your teeth and gums and sticking to a strict, regimented oral routine should be a basic part of how you manage your diabetes.  You will be able to prevent several potential complications by sticking to your routine. If you are getting your recommended regular check-ups by your dentist, any problems that may arise will be able to be spotted early and treated as soon as possible, without allowing any issues to develop further.

Symptoms of Dental Health Problems

  • Swollen or sore gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms urgent treatment may be required. You should book an appointment as soon as you can.

Oral health issues that are associated with diabetes:

Dry mouth

Sometimes, uncontrolled or poorly-controlled diabetes can decrease the amount of saliva flow in the mouth, therefore resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth is a condition that can lead to further soreness in the mouth and gums, mouth ulcers infections and tooth decay.

Gum inflammation – Gingivitis and periodontitis

A symptom of poorly controlled diabetes is the weakening of white blood cells. However, another complication of diabetes is that it can often cause blood vessels to thicken. This slows down the flow of nutrients to body tissues and waste from them, most importantly, including the mouth. When this combination of events occurs in the body, it loses its ability to fight infections.

Since periodontal disease is essentially a bacterial infection, people with uncontrolled diabetes may experience more and more severe forms of gum disease.

Thrush

Diabetic patients who frequently take antibiotics to fight various infections are those who will be prone to developing a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue (thrush).

The fungus thrives on the high glucose levels in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes. Wearing dentures (especially when worn constantly) can also lead to fungal infections.

Burning mouth or tongue

This condition is usually set off by the presence of thrush.

Poor healing of oral tissues

Due to various factors, those with uncontrolled diabetes do not heal as quickly as other after dental procedures or surgeries. This is usually due to the fact that during the procedure, the blood flow to the treatment site can often be damaged.

If you have diabetes, you face a higher risk of developing these issues. However, we have listed a few ways that you can keep your mouth healthy and prevent any of these oral issues from developing.

Smokers

People who have diabetes and also smoke are at an even higher risk (up to 20 times) of developing any of these oral conditions.

Tips to help you maintain good dental health

Here are a few tips to ensure that you are able to protect your teeth and gums:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day. Once at some point in the morning, but the second most important one is to brush last thing at night at the end of your day.
  • Using a timer will be helpful to ensure that each time you brush your teeth you are brushing for a full 2 minutes each time.
  • Make sure you are using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.  Fluoride in toothpaste helps to keep your teeth strong and helps to prevent dental decay.
  • Do not rinse your mouth out with water after you have finished brushing your teeth. This will keep the fluoride working on your teeth.
  • Be sure to floss once a day to remove any plaque from in between your teeth. Preferably do this before brushing your teeth. Use small brushes or dental floss tape.
  • The only drink you should have at night is water. Veen during the day it will be helpful to limit how many sugary drinks you have.
  • If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, your blood sugar control may be more difficult to manage, but effective gum treatment from your dentist can help improve it significantly.
  • Make sure that you have your teeth and gums checked and cleaned by your dentist or hygienist at least twice a year. Your dentist will advise you how often you should attend for your specific circumstance.
  • Softly brush your teeth after every meal with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to quit.

Talk to us if you’re worried about diabetes and gum disease

Book an appointment with our dental hygienists now to find out more about how to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Find out more about our dental hygiene services.

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Contact us today to find out more about diabetes and gum disease by contacting one of our practices in Esher, Surrey or Wandsworth, South West London.