Diabetic patients have more to worry about than just their blood sugar. As with any systemic disease, diabetes can have an impact on all areas of health. Problems with diabetes can even extend to your dental health.
Did you know that researchers have found an association between gum disease and diabetes? Although these two areas of health seem completely unrelated, they actually are connected in a variety of ways. Not only do they share many risk factors but diabetes can make patients more susceptible to oral health problems like gum disease.
Gum disease poses a threat to your overall dental health and can open up the floodgates to other issues like tooth decay and tooth loss. In fact, the American Dental Association reports that 1 in 5 cases of tooth loss is linked to diabetes.
In observance of American Diabetes Month, Dr. Paul Caputo explains more about the connection between oral health and diabetes, and gives some helpful dental tips for patients affected by diabetes.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin. In a healthy individual, the body will take food we consume and turn it into glucose for energy. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, is a hormone that helps get glucose into the body’s cells.
With more than 29 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, this health concern is more relevant than ever. According to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, diabetes takes more lives than AIDS and breast cancer combined. This equates to one death in the United States every 3 minutes.
For those affected by diabetes, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin for the body to utilize glucose or can’t properly use insulin for the use of glucose. When this occurs, glucose will build up in the bloodstream and cause serious health complications.
The obvious problem with this metabolic disease is the starvation of energy that occurs on a cellular level. Additionally, diabetes can also result in heart disease, limb amputation, blindness, and kidney failure.
Diabetes can be broken into two main categories — type 1 and type 2. In general, type 2 diabetes is far more common but fortunately, it is preventable.
Type 1 Diabetes: This type of diabetes, which is also known as juvenile-onset diabetes, only accounts for about 5% of all diabetes cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Believed to be an inherited genetic condition, type 1 diabetes occurs in children or young adults, and is the form of diabetes where the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to properly use insulin, also known as insulin resistance. There are several genetic and environmental factors that can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. Aside from this, there are several lifestyle choices (that we can control) to minimize our chances of developing this form of diabetes.
Lifestyle risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
If you have a history of gestational diabetes or a family history of diabetes, you should be especially aware of these risk factors that are in your control.
Diabetes relates to dental health because they share many of the same risk factors. Various factors such as poor diet and obesity have been tied to poor dental health and the development of diabetes.
People with diabetes may also struggle with keeping a healthy smile because they are more susceptible to infections in the mouth. They are more likely to develop these infections because high blood sugar levels can weaken the defense of the immune system. In this case, diabetic patients should pay special attention to their periodontal health. Not doing so will allow for gum disease to progress, which can eventually lead to tooth loss and jaw bone deterioration.
Oral health can also negatively affect diabetics because dry mouth is a common symptom of untreated type 2 diabetes. Dry mouth is especially damaging to dental health because saliva helps to neutralize acids in the mouth that spur tooth decay, and also helps to wash away food particles that bacteria thrive on.
For those of you that are concerned about your how diabetes will impact your dental health, there are a few steps you can take. Some of the best ways to keep your dental health up to par include:
If you have oral health concerns, we’d love to help you! Dr. Caputo is dedicated to providing the highest level of dental care for patients here in Palm Harbor and surrounding areas. Whether you need a routine dental cleaning or restorative dental treatment with dental implants, we are here to help. To learn more about the services we offer, contact our office today at 727-789-1333.
Paul L. Caputo, DDS3490 E Lake Rd S Suite A