People with diabetes have a low resistance to infection and a slow healing process, hence they are more likely to have oral health problems. In India, there are 77 million diabetics, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in 2020 and over 90% of people with diabetes have some type of oral health problem as mentioned in a study of Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences.
Some of common diabetes and oral care issues are:
Gum disease or Gingivitis
This is one of the most common issues of diabetes sufferers. Gum disease occurs when plaque accumulates over time and hardens. Gums become red, swollen and may also bleed. This could lead to the advanced stage called periodontitis if not addressed timely. Also, it is a two-way journey, not only can diabetes lead to gum problems, but also worsen uncontrolled diabetes and affect blood glucose levels.
All one needs to do is follow diabetes precautions along with diligent holistic oral hygiene practice. The oral care routine should involve brushing regularly with a soft bristles toothbrush. Floss to remove stubborn plaque and use of mouthwash. A mouthwash cleans the whole mouth and removes germs and plaque which are the root cause of gum problems. Also one should let their dentist know about their diabetic condition.
Loss of teeth
People with diabetes are at more risk to lose their teeth than people without diabetes. There are many factors that can cause this, one of the main reasons is uncontrolled sugar levels. Higher sugar levels in a diabetic can cause more bacteria to grow in the mouth which can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. In case an infection sets in the mouth, a diabetic will take more time to heal which can also cause direct impact on the bone that supports the teeth, ultimately leading to loss of teeth. Hence it is better to stay cautious by doing timely dental check-ups and maintaining an oral hygiene routine.
A diabetic can also experience symptoms like dry mouth due to lack of saliva. It is mostly because of the medications they take. Dry mouth could lead to increased infections in the mouth like thrush, and tooth decay. One might also get bad breath issues.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this. Consuming more water and chewing sugar-free gum will lessen dryness in the mouth. Regular dental check-ups are essential if you have dry mouth. Brush and floss every day. If you can’t brush after eating, rinse with a mouthwash. Using a mouthwash with essential oils with antibacterial function and anti-fungal properties is the best way to fight bad breath and address thrush. Highlighting these conditions to your doctor is also important.
Higher blood sugar levels lead to a greater supply of sugars and starches which results in more acid wearing away the teeth, causing decay. Tooth decay could lead to cavities which can be immensely painful. It is best prevented though it can be treated.
While diet plays an important role, having an oral hygiene routine can make a difference in the prevention of tooth decay. High sugar and refined carbohydrates should be avoided as they can increase the risk of dental decay. Using a fluoride toothpaste is recommended. Flossing should be followed by rinsing the mouth with mouthwash regularly. This regime will keep your teeth strong to fight off cavities. It also helps in cleaning areas like under the tongue and the roof of the mouth, making the entire mouth clean.
Therefore, keeping good control of blood sugar levels, having smart and healthy lifestyle choices along with a good oral care routine at home with regular dental check-ups can help people with diabetes have a healthy mouth. On this ‘World Oral Health Day’ let’s pledge to raise awareness about the need for proper oral care hygiene in diabetes. Diabetes management is a lifelong task and oral care is a vital part of it.
To be attributed to Dr. Anirban Chatterjee, Periodontist and Implantologist, President Elect of Indian Society of Periodontology