Diabetes can take its toll on dental health. The main reason is that diabetes is a systemic disease involving high blood sugar. The higher a person’s blood sugar, the higher risk for dental diseases and tooth decay.
Cavities and High Blood Sugar
Cavities happen when bacteria within our mouths produce acids that eat away at the enamel (enamel is the hard protective outer-coating on a tooth). These acids come from plaque, which is a sticky film produced when mouth bacteria interact with the starches and sugars from our foods and drinks. If you are diabetic and dealing with a high blood sugar level, there will be a greater supply of starches and sugars within our bodies—you will also have different requirements for diet.
The Early Stages of Gum Disease
When someone has diabetes, their bodies have a reduced ability to fight back against bacteria. When things like plaque are not removed by brushing and flossing (remember the importance of brushing twice daily and flossing once!) that plaque hardens at the gum line. This harder substance, called tartar, forms around the base of the teeth, causing the gums to swell and begin to form pockets—pockets where bacteria can creep in below the gum line and cause problems! Over time, swollen gums can begin to bleed. These initial stages, called gingivitis, are usually easy and non-invasive to treat.
Advanced Gum Disease and Diabetes
Gingivitis that is left untreated can progress to the much more severe, and much more invasive and difficult to treat, Periodontal Disease. Periodontal Disease is an infection that can destroy the soft tissues and bones within the mouth. Obviously, this is bad, because the bones and soft tissues support everything in the mouth. Overtime this breaking down causes the gums and teeth to pull away from the bone—inevitably the teeth will become loose and, possibly, fall out. Why is Periodontal Disease worse for those with diabetes? It’s because diabetes hinders a body’s ability to resist infection. Diabetes, and all systemic disease for that matter, can also hinder the body’s ability to heal. It’s so important to keep up a regular routine of oral care that includes a regular checkup with your periodontist, Dr. Manhart.