The American Diabetes Association established November as Diabetes Awareness Month as a way to help healthcare providers and the community at large spread awareness about diabetes and all the effects it has on the body. While you may think of diabetes as a disorder that primarily affects the cardiovascular system, it actually impacts every part of the body, including the teeth and gums.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, the team at ZDental would like to share some information with you about the connection between diabetes and oral health and make you aware of some unique oral health concerns for people living with diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

When you eat food, your body breaks it down into various components, including sugars, which are released into the bloodstream. When the concentration of sugar in your blood rises, it signals your pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that allows your cells to convert sugars into energy. People with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin, or they are not able to use it effectively, causing sugar to build up in the blood. Over time, this condition can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, and more. Some people develop diabetes in childhood (Type 1), while others begin having symptoms later in life (Type 2).

While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed with insulin injections. Those who are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the condition by losing weight, changing their diet, or engaging in more physical activity.

Diabetes and Oral Health

Most oral health conditions can be traced back to a buildup of harmful bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria need sugar to live, and the more sugar is available, the more they will thrive in the warm, moist environment of your mouth. Because diabetes has the effect of increasing the amount of sugar in the saliva, it can allow oral bacteria to reproduce more rapidly. It can also cause dry mouth, preventing your saliva from washing away harmful bacteria from the teeth and gums. 

Excessive bacteria in the mouth can lead to a number of issues over time, including tartar buildup on the teeth, halitosis, and tooth decay. Diabetes also restricts blood circulation and weakens the immune system, severely impeding your body’s ability to respond to bacterial infections in the mouth. This puts those living with diabetes at a much higher risk of developing gingivitis and gum disease. This can lead to tooth loss, abscesses, and other oral health conditions that can be harmful or even fatal if left untreated.

Whether you are living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, or you are at risk of developing diabetes, it is important that you speak with your dentist about the connection between diabetes and serious oral health conditions. Your dental team can communicate with your doctor about any issues you are experiencing and help develop a treatment plan to resolve them.

Home Oral Health Care for People Living with Diabetes

Those who have diabetes or who are pre-diabetic can help prevent associated health issues by maintaining a robust oral healthcare routine at home. This includes brushing twice per day, flossing once per day and as needed after meals, and using an American Dental Association-approved mouthwash once per day. Taking these steps and scheduling a dental checkup every 6 months will significantly improve your oral health and can alleviate or prevent some of the conditions associated with diabetes.

If you need to schedule a checkup in southeast Pennsylvania or New Jersey, the team at ZDental is waiting to hear from you! We will be happy to give you more information about the connection between diabetes and oral health, treat you for a range of other conditions, or just give you a routine checkup. We can also provide other services like cosmetic dentistry, oral surgery, and emergency dental care in Philadelphia and surrounding areas including New Jersey. Visit our contact page for a full list of clinics in the area and call or schedule your appointment online today!