If you have diabetes, you know the disease can harm your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other important systems in the body. Did you know it can also cause problems in your mouth? People with diabetes have a higher than normal risk of dental diseases.
How can diabetes affect my mouth?
Too much glucose in your blood from diabetes can cause pain, infection, and other problems in your mouth. Your mouth includes:
- your teeth
- your gums
- your jaw
- tissues such as your tongue, the roof and bottom of your mouth, and the inside of your cheeks
When diabetes is not controlled, high glucose levels in your saliva help harmful bacteria grow. These bacteria combine with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque. Plaque also comes from eating foods that contain sugars or starches. Some types of plaque cause tooth decay or cavities while other types of plaque cause gum disease and bad breath.
What happens if I have plaque?
Plaque that is not removed hardens over time into tartar and collects above your gum line. Tartar makes it more difficult to brush and clean between your teeth. You will then have gingivitis which means that your gums will become red and swollen and bleed easily. When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to gum disease called periodontitis. In periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets which slowly become infected. This infection can last a long time. Your body fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Both the bacteria and your body’s response to this infection start to break down the bone and the tissue that hold the teeth in place. If periodontitis is not treated, the gums, bones, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. Teeth may become loose and might need to be removed.
Symptoms of a problem in your mouth are
- a sore, or an ulcer, that does not heal
- dark spots or holes in your teeth
- pain in your mouth, face, or jaw that doesn’t go away
- loose teeth
- pain when chewing
- a changed sense of taste or a bad taste in your mouth
- bad breath that doesn’t go away when you brush your teeth
How does smoking affect my mouth?
Smoking raises your chances of getting gum disease, oral and throat cancers, and oral fungal infections. Smoking also discolors your teeth and makes your breath smell bad. Smoking and diabetes are a dangerous mix.
If you quit smoking:
- you will lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, kidney disease, and amputation
- your cholesterol and blood pressure levels might improve
- your blood circulation will improve
How can I keep my mouth healthy?
- Keep your blood glucose numbers as close to your target as possible. Your doctor will help you set your target blood glucose numbers and teach you what to do if your numbers are too high or too low.
- Eat healthy meals and follow the meal plan that you and your doctor have worked out.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride protects against toothdecay. Aim for brushing first thing in the morning, before going to bed, and after each meal andsugary or starchy snack.
- Gently brush your teeth with the toothbrush angled towards the gum line.
- Brush the front, back, and top of each tooth. Brush your tongue, too.
- Drink water that contains added fluoride or ask your dentist about using a fluoride mouth rinse to prevent tooth decay.
- Use dental floss to clean between your teeth at least once a day. Flossing helps prevent plaque from building up on your teeth.
- Stop smoking
Make sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes. Therefore, controlling your glucose levels will cease the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth. The Spike App will help you better manage your diabetes by monitoring your daily behavior and notifying you with tips. The Spike App stores your data therefore you will be able to share it with your dentist if needed.