Is there a link between Type 2 Diabetes and Oral Health?
For the nearly 30 million Americans who have type 2 diabetes, many are often surprised to learn about an unforeseen complication that is associated with their condition – oral health problems.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin (the so-called beta cells). Therefore insulin production is absent leading to increases in the blood glucose levels.
In type 2 diabetes, the body cannot use the produced insulin properly or insulin is produced at too low levels. Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity (a body mass index (BMI) of 30+) and affects mostly older people.
People suffering from type 2 diabetes can have multiple health issues, including:
- Heart disease
- Damage to the nerves
- Kidney disease
- Problems with your feet
Most of the issues in type 2 diabetes are caused by damage to the small blood vessels, leading to a reduced/absent blood supply to the organ tissue. The damage to the small blood vessels is a direct result of the high blood glucose levels.
Next to the health issues mentioned above, there is, in fact, a clear association with gum disease among diabetes suffers, and type 2 diabetics can add serious gum disease to the list of other complications associated with the dangerous symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes.
What’s the Connection between Type 2 Diabetes and Oral Health?
Emerging research suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and Type 2 Diabetes is a two-way street.
Not only are people with diabetes more disposed to severe gum disease, but serious gum disease can also have the potential to affect blood glucose control, and can contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes and other health issues including heart disease.
Another aspect to consider is that people with diabetes are also at higher risk of various oral health problems, such as gingivitis and periodontitis – but why is this?
Simply put, people with Type 2 Diabetes are at a higher risk of developing serious gum disease because they are more vulnerable to bacterial infection.
When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t heal as well as other people might. This means that you will have a reduced ability to fight any bacteria that could potentially invade your gums.
Swollen or bleeding gums allow bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream, which can in turn and lead to other (serious) health issues.
It’s important to mention that these complications are avoidable with proper diabetes control. If your blood glucose levels are badly controlled, you will be more likely to develop this oral health issues.
Diabetes and oral health can be a cruel circle, as when a Type 2 diabetic gets an infection such as serious gum disease, it can actually cause blood sugar to rise, thus making diabetes more difficult to control and the issues to persist.
Additional problems connected to Diabetes include the following oral health issues:
So what can you do to maintain a good Oral Health?
If you’re a diabetic and you are worried about your oral health, there are a number of things you can do.
The key thing is to control your glucose levels as best you can. This is important not only to avoid complications but also to reduce your risk of developing all diabetic related complications.
You need to try and maintain good diabetic control, stop smoking and remove and clean your dentures every day if you wear them if you want to avoid thrush and fungal infections in your mouth.
Maintaining a good blood glucose control will also prevent or alleviate dry mouth that is caused by diabetes.
Avoid too much Sugar!
Obviously, avoiding eating too much sugar is very important for your diabetic control and your overall health in general. One of the first things that training dentists learn is the effects of sugar of teeth. Whether you are a diabetic or not, the bacteria contained in the plaque feeds on the that you eat and drink which creates acids that can really damage you the enamel on your teeth and promote cavities over time. Avoiding eating too much sugar is definitely a step in the right direction for your oral health.
Along with brushing your teeth and flossing at least twice a day, you should also have regular check-ups every six months with your dentist. When you have diabetes your dentist and your dental hygienist should be able to meet those needs if you inform them that you are a diabetic.
It’s really important that you make your dentist and hygienist aware of any changes in your diabetes or medication that you might be taking. It is also important not to undergo any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar levels are not in the best control, to avoid an increased risk of infection.