Diabetes and Dental Care
Diabetes affects your whole body, including your mouth. It is not uncommon for the dentist to be the first to identify the disease. Diabetes has been shown to be directly related to periodontal (gum) disease. While neither disease is curable, they can be managed. However, if either condition isn’t properly controlled, it can make the other condition that much worse. Unfortunately, many people, approximately 5.7 million in the U.S. alone, have diabetes and are unaware. And many diabetic patients do not seek dental care.
What exactly is periodontal (gum) disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection and inflammatory disease affecting the tissues that support the teeth (your gums). It is the primary cause of tooth loss in people over the age of 35. Recent research links gum disease to heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, prenatal complications, as well as diabetes. Gingivitis is the mildest form of this disease, characterized by puffy, reddish gums that bleed easily. With the right care, gingivitis can be reversed, but if left untreated it can progress to periodontitis. In this condition, gums pull away from the teeth creating pockets, which can become infected. Continued progression causes more loss of gum tissue and bone destruction. Affected teeth will become loose and eventually lost. Tooth loss can lead to dramatic lifestyle changes as it affects the ability to speak and chew, as well as one's appearance.
What exactly is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that result from the body's inability to use and/or produce insulin as it should leading to high blood sugar levels. In Type 1, affecting 5-10% of those diagnosed with diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. These patients require insulin therapy for life. In Type 2, affecting the majority of cases, the body does not respond to insulin, as well as its production may be insufficient. These patients may require diet and medication therapy.
Gestational diabetes is a form of the disease that appears during pregnancy and affects approximately 4% of pregnant women. This can lead to complications with the pregnancy as well as health problems in the newborn. Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Research has shown that nearly 57 million people in the United States are pre-diabetic. People with this condition are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes and periodontal disease are both serious conditions. With proper management, people living with these conditions can have full and active lives. By visiting your dentist regularly and practicing good at-home dental care, you can drastically decrease complications caused by these conditions.
Even if you don’t feel any pain, you should make an appointment with your dentist if:
- You notice blood on your toothbrush, saliva or food
- Any of your teeth seem to have shifted position or become loose
- You use any tobacco products
- It has been more than two years since your last dental visit
Contact your physician right away if you are experiencing any of these symptoms of diabetes:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger and/or thirst
- Excessive fatigue and irritability
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Frequent infections
- Slow healing from cuts and bruises
- Blurred vision
Community Dental—Gentle, Safe, Comprehensive Dental CareOur approach is to work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan designed to improve and maintain your good dental health through preventive and restorative services. We participate with Mainecare as well as many dental insurance plans, and offer a sliding fee for eligible patients. We offer walk-in appointments during business hours for dental emergencies. We treat all ages, so your whole family can become established patients with us. Good oral health care is an important aspect of your overall health. Contact us today or give us a call—we have several locations throughout the state and look forward to your visit!