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Diabetes and Oral Health – It’s a Two-Way Street

Diabetes mellitus affects nearly 30 million Americans – that’s more or less 10% of the population. And every year, approximately 2 million new cases are being reported and there are more than 8 million people who don’t even know they have diabetes.

In one of our previous articles, the connection between oral and systemic health were discussed and we have diabetes in that list. In this article, we will go into detail about the association between oral health and this metabolic disease.

The oral manifestations of diabetes

Diabetes, particularly if poorly-controlled or uncontrolled, can affect every part of the body and the oral cavity is no exception. It decreases salivary flow and increases your risk for tooth decay. It also causes your gums to become more inflamed and bleed easily.

Gum disease modified by diabetes tends to progress much faster. Most importantly, diabetes can also lead to poor wound healing and increased susceptibility to various oral infections. Poor wound healing is of the main reasons why your dentist would require medical clearance first before you undergo invasive procedures like root planing and extraction.

Diabetes and gum disease

The most common oral disease in diabetics is gum disease, affecting one in every five diagnosed individuals. In older the patients with poor blood sugar control, the risk is even higher and the symptoms are more severe. Severe forms of gum disease, it turn, causes blood sugar to rise. The relationship between the two is pretty much like a cycle because they affect one another.

How your dentist can help you

Your dentist’s role is to treat any oral infection that’s contributing to your high blood sugar. Depending on what treatment you need, your dentist will first require you to secure a medical clearance from your physician to ensure that nothing will go wrong during your dental treatment.

For tooth decay, the treatment options would be restoration, root canal treatment, and extraction depending on the extent of decay. Restoration and root canal treatment often do not need a medical clearance, but extraction always does. On the other hand, the treatment for severe forms of gum disease is scaling and root planing and it also requires a medical clearance.

Aside from treating your existing oral infections, you dentist will also give you oral hygiene instructions specific for your case. You will also be advised to go on regular dental visits for monitoring and professional cleaning. Some dentists request their patients to undergo a lab test for HbA1c, which shows how well you control your blood sugar for the past three months.

Your plan of action

While the professional care provided by your dentist is beneficial in improving your oral health, it will be for nothing if you don’t do your part. For one, follow all the oral hygiene instructions provided by your dentist and be sure to show up on your scheduled dental checkups and professional cleaning. If you’re smoking, it’s best to quit immediately.

With regards to your diabetes, take all your prescribed medications on time and exactly as instructed. Start a healthier lifestyle by eating healthily and exercising. Good blood sugar control will improve your overall health, especially your immune health which will fight off any infections not just in your mouth, but in your entire body as well.