Diabetes and Oral Health

Dr. Rola El Zein Karnib
Pediatric Dentist
Clinical Director
Pediatric Dentistry Department - School Of Dentistry Lebanese University

 

Diabetes is a common life-long health condition, where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. In 2015, there were 464,200 cases of diabetes among Lebanese adults aged between 20 and 79 years old. That's 12.2 % of this category of population. Both types of diabetes (I and II) affect the body's ability to process sugar resulting in high blood sugar levels and causing problems to different parts of the body, the mouth, among them.

In fact, diabetes patients can suffer from dry and burning mouth symptoms. This dryness causes soreness and higher risk of dental cavities. Patients can also have problems tasting food, delayed wound healing, halitosis and can be susceptible to oral infections like thrush caused by fungus.

In addition, since people with diabetes are more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight the bacteria that invade the gums, the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes is periodontal disease (chronic inflammation of the gum and tissues holding the teeth and bone). When a patient reaches this stage, the gum begins to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets between both that fill with germs and pus. If nothing is done, the infection goes on to destroy the bone around the teeth causing it to move or get loose. Finally the tooth may fall or need to be pulled. Unfortunately, serious gum disease is now added to the list of other complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but also serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.

To prevent dental problems associated with diabetes, first and foremost control of blood glucose levels is necessary. Regular checkups, every four to six months with good care of the teeth (brushing after each meal with soft bristles toothbrush) are a must. Using mouthwash without alcohol and artificial saliva are suggested to minimize dryness of the mouth.  Avoiding smoking and removing and cleaning dentures are important to control thrush and fungal infections. Finally, It is important to know that people with diabetes have special needs and they should inform their dentist about their disease to take special precautions before, during and after any dental treatment.

 

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