In the U.S., roughly 34.2 million people have diabetes. That means that more than one out of every ten people in the country has this condition. Meanwhile, a third of all Americans, 88 million of us, have prediabetes.
While, unfortunately, diabetes is becoming alarmingly common, most of us aren’t aware of the countless ways it can affect the body.
One of the major ways that diabetes can affect the body is by damaging the teeth and gums. In fact, dental problems may be the first sign that you have the condition.
If you have or think you might have diabetes, talk to your McAllen dentist about how your condition may be affecting your teeth and gums. Your dentist can help you monitor, treat, or prevent the serious oral health problems associated with diabetes.
How Does Diabetes Affects the Body?
Diabetes is a condition that impairs the body’s ability to process food as energy. This can cause high glucose (sugar) levels in the blood, high blood pressure, and is often accompanied by high cholesterol.
Of course, this doesn’t exactly explain how diabetes can affect a person’s life.
Diabetes brings with it a number of short-term symptoms as well as several long-term effects. While symptoms like fatigue, blurry vision, and increased thirst can certainly be unpleasant, the long-term effects can be a much larger problem if they develop. It’s worth noting that these issues don’t always appear, and they usually take years to develop.
- Coronary heart disease
- Diabetic retinopathy (eye complications or blindness)
- Diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease)
- Neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Digestive issues due to medication or nerve damage
- Slow healing, increased risk of infection
- Diabetic foot (loss of feeling in the foot)
These issues are arguably the most well-known long-term effects of diabetes, but fewer people are familiar with how this condition can affect oral health.
How Can Diabetes Impact My Oral Health?
Like heart conditions and kidney disease, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of tooth and gum issues relative to those without the condition. This increased risk is caused both by high glucose levels and a weak infection resistance.
Remember, teeth and gum problems are often the first signs that a person might have diabetes, so being familiar with these issues is essential if you’re at risk of the condition.
Below, you can find some of the oral health issues associated with diabetes:
- Periodontal disease — gum disease which can cause or be caused by diabetes
- Dry mouth — low saliva levels accompanied by thirst or burning
- Taste disturbances — particularly difficulty tasting sweetness or a metallic taste in the mouth
- Tooth decay — the higher your blood sugar levels, the higher your risk of tooth decay as bacteria feeds on the sugar on your teeth; dry mouth can compound this risk
- Gum abscesses — similar to tooth decay, more sugar in the mouth means more fuel for bacteria, and dry mouth exacerbates the problem
- Mouth ulcers — also known to be caused by diabetes-related dry mouth
- Fungal infections — including oral thrush, caused by the combination of poor infection resistance, high blood pressure, and dry mouth
- Lichen planus — an inflammatory autoimmune skin condition
If you have or might have diabetes, let your McAllen dentist know. First, a dentist can help you watch for these issues as warning signs that you may have diabetes. Next, if you already know you have diabetes, your dentist can help you prevent or treat these oral health issues.
How to Prevent Diabetes-Related Oral Health Issues
Having diabetes isn’t a guarantee that a person is going to develop oral health issues. Instead, having this condition means that a person may have to be extra attentive to their dental health. If you have diabetes, you may wish to follow the tips below in order to avoid the dental problems often associated with this condition:
- Follow your doctor’s and dentist’s advice regarding your diet, medication, and blood sugar
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss once per day
- Drink plenty of water
- Chew sugar-free gum for dry mouth
- Don’t smoke
- Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups
Addressing My Diabetes – Oral Health Concerns With a Dentist Near Me
The dental problems associated with diabetes can be incredibly serious if left unaddressed. Some of these issues can also increase the risk of other, non-dental diabetes complications.
If you have diabetes, be sure to regularly visit your McAllen dentists at Whitewing Dental for help monitoring and protecting your oral health. Our staff is dedicated to helping our clients stay healthy and smiling bright!