Diabetic patients need regular dental-check ups to keep away potential oral infections that can easily occur because of their compromised immune system. Here, we discuss why the need for a specialist.
As recent as 2015, the American Diabetes Association notes that nearly 10% of the US population had diabetes, and this number is only counting those individuals that have been diagnosed. Ranking 7th amongst causes of death in the United States, diabetes affects everything you do and a slight misstep can throw your levels off and put you in a very bad (and dangerous) predicament.
Adults and children living with this type of disease can tell you firsthand how restricting, taxing, and out-right dangerous it is to live day-to-day, but not many know how this disease can have a tremendous impact on your oral and dental health, and vice versa (a little more thoroughly explained later on in this article). To fully encompass how vital good dental care and overall health maintenance is to keep a stable quality of life, we have to examine the relationship between diabetes and dental health, what it can lead to, and what can be done.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes (pre, type 1, type 2, and gestational) is a disease that happens when your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels get too high through a lack of Insulin. Your body’s energy depends heavily on your blood glucose from the foods you eat, and your Insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) aids in distributing the glucose into your cells for proper energy intake. The glucose trapped in your bloodstream causes health problems, which is why diabetes leads to many complications directly as a result. Though manageable with a good enough routine, there is no known cure for diabetes, though gestational and pre-diabetes can be negated with a healthy diet and exercise.
Genetics plays a part in how prone someone is to diabetes, too. If your family has a history of diabetes, then you will most likely be prone to it. Chances are you will be considered “pre-diabetic” due to this disease being hereditary, though as mentioned before, a healthy lifestyle will lower your chances of developing it at all.
How Does Diabetes Affect Oral Health?
So, what does diabetes have to do with your teeth or mouth? Well, the warning signs for diabetes are not just felt through frequent urination or weight loss and fatigue, symptoms can appear orally. Excessive thirst, which manifests through having less saliva, leads to xerostomia (dry mouth), which leads to oral thrush (basically yeast infection of the mouth). The lack of salivary production is an open window for the formation of cavities.
As far as the impact this disease has on oral and dental health, diabetes can cause the blood vessels to thicken, in turn slowing the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes. The result is weakening the resistance of the gums and bone tissue to the spread of infection. With diabetes, viruses are harder to overcome, and you become susceptible to infections in your mouth such as gingivitis. Gingivitis is one of the signs, and many diabetic patients will notice inflamed gums that bleed. And yet another more serious and likely-to-occur gum infection is periodontitis, which causes gum recession and decays, even loss of teeth if severe enough.
Why Periodontitis Occurs in Diabetic Patients?
Bacteria (many, many bacteria) inhabit our mouths, whether we brush 30 times a day or not. However, regular brushing and maintenance really cut down the chances of developing infections like periodontal disease, which can result in decay of the gums, dental tissue and bones, as well. If you are diabetic, chances are the likelihood of you developing periodontitis has increased exponentially (22% of all diabetic patients have been affected by this serious gum disease). Having poor blood sugar control is what directly attracts periodontal disease, which in turn, heightens your blood sugar levels, resulting in difficulty managing diabetes because your body isn’t able to fight off the infections.
As a diabetic, you can’t necessarily keep up with dental and oral health maintenance either to control the bacteria, since even brushing or flossing can result in bleeding and, once again, introducing the bacteria into your bloodstream. Periodontitis and poor diabetic control are cyclical and patients will need the help of an experienced dentist to aid in the prevention of future infections.
If afflicted with this, fear not. Periodontal treatment will be necessary if the severity gets to this point, which isn’t all too bad when thinking of some of the benefits that come with it. As of recently, dental experts presume that periodontal disease treatment may not only lead to diminished changes to the blood-sugar levels, there is also a decreased risk of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina that could lead to blindness in diabetics) and a decreased risk of damage to the arteries.
But, why wait until treatment is the only solution? There are things you can do at home that can help you prevent diabetes-related periodontal disease.
How To Prevent Gum Disease & Other Diabetes-Related Complications
Though it may go without saying, keeping good control over your blood sugar levels really cuts down the chances of infection. Though easier said than done, you need to keep any possible risk at bay since constant infections will lower your body’s resistance to them if they are frequent enough. A thorough and responsible monitoring of your levels is vital. Regular check-ups and dentist appointments for cleanings, maintenance, and examinations are also recommended to keep you on the right path to proper oral hygiene.
Here are some more tips you can do in your home to help you in preventing periodontal disease from occurring:
- Buy a toothbrush that has soft bristles
- Carefully brush your teeth 40 minutes after a meal
- Don’t skip on flossing
- Use non-alcoholic mouthwash when you’re experiencing dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Quit smoking
- If you wear dentures, clean them daily and don’t sleep with them on
Schedule An Appointment Today With Dr. Marc Lazare
If you or a loved one have diabetes (type 1, type 2, pre-diabetic, or gestational) and require an experienced, well-versed dental professional to address your oral and dental health, contact Dr. Marc Lazare. Certain dental treatments may impact your levels, so treatments must be discussed with both your doctor and Dr. Lazare. Tooth extractions, for example, may result in a blood sugar & Insulin crash. Antibiotics also run the same risk, which is why consulting with your doctor before your dental visit is ideal.
Diabetic patients are urged to book a visit for a thorough examination and dental cleaning every six months for maintenance. Our team will schedule the patient’s dental appointments in the morning after they’ve had breakfast and taken their diabetes medication, and we’ll keep the visits short to prevent any complication. Dr. Lazare and his team can accommodate diabetic patients during their visit to ensure a safe, dental appointment. Call us at 212-861-2599 or fill out our contact form for more information.
Why Choose Dr. Lazare?
Dr. Marc Lazare is one of New York’s leading dental professionals, specializing in many treatments, techniques, and facets of dentistry, such as periodontics and biomimetic. Dr. Lazare has given countless lectures and is regarded as a “Dentist to the Stars” because of his extensive celebrity client list.
- B.A. University of Pennsylvania (Major: Natural Sciences)
- D.D.S. New York University College of Dentistry (Class President)
- Intern in General Practice Residency Program, Department of Dentistry North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.
- Chief Resident in General Practice Residency Program, Department of Dentistry North Shore University Hospital
- Present Active Member of the Attending Staff- North Shore University Hospital
- Present Member of the Clinical Faculty- NYU College of Dentistry
- Master in the Academy of General Dentistry – Awarded in 2011
- Serves on the Board for the Academy of Biomimetic Dentistry
- Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry
- Fellow in the International Academy for Dental-Facial Esthetics
- NEW YORK LICENSE #046840 ISSUED1996