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Diabetes and Your Smile – Know the Risks and Have a Plan

Sable DDS

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and we are helping to spread the word on how uncontrolled diabetes can affect individuals’ teeth and gums. Below are edited notes from the American Dental Association and related research.

Diabetes and Your Smile

Based on article by Laura Martin, Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine

Did you know that 29.1 million people living in the United States have Diabetes? That’s 9.3% of the population. Approximately 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed each year—and 8.1 million people living with diabetes don’t even know they have it.

Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. All food you eat is turned to sugar and used for energy. In Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. Both cases result in high blood sugar levels, which can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body.

So what does this have to do with that smile of yours?? If diabetes is left untreated, it can take a toll on your mouth. In fact, one in five cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes.  

5 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Mouth

Gum Disease

Notice some bleeding when you brush or floss? That may be an early sign of gum disease. If it becomes more severe, the bone that supports your teeth can break down, leading to tooth loss. Early gum disease can be reversed with proper brushing, flossing and diet. Research has shown gum disease can worsen if your blood sugar is not under control, so do your best to keep it in check.

All people have more tiny bacteria living in their mouth now than there are people on this planet. If they make their home in your gums, you can end up with gum disease. This chronic, inflammatory disease can destroy your gums, all the tissues holding your teeth and even your bones.

Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22% of those diagnosed. Especially with increasing age, poor blood sugar control increases the risk for gum problems.  In fact, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for gum problems because of poor blood sugar control. As with all infections, serious gum disease may cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetes harder to control because you are more susceptible to infections and are less able to fight the bacteria invading the gums.

Dry Mouth

Studies have found people with diabetes have less saliva, so you might find yourself feeling parched or extra thirsty. (Medications and higher blood sugar levels are also causes.) Fight dry mouth by drinking water. You can also chew sugarless gum and eat healthy, crunchy foods to get saliva flowing. This is especially important because extra sugar in your saliva, combined with less saliva to wash away leftover food, can lead to cavities

Change in Taste

Your favorite flavors might not taste as rich as your remember if you have diabetes. It can be disappointing, but take the opportunity to experiment with different tastes, textures and spices to your favorite foods. Just take care not to add too much sugar to your food in an effort to add flavor. Not only can this affect the quality of your diet, it can also lead to more cavities. If you have a persistent bad taste in your mouth, see your dentist or doctor.

Infections

Diabetes affects your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection. One common among people with diabetes is a yeast infection called oral thrush (candidiasis). The yeast thrive on the higher amount of sugar found in your saliva, and it looks like a white layer coating your tongue and the insides of your cheeks. Thrush is more common in people who wear dentures and can often leave a bad taste in your mouth. See your dentist if you think you have thrush or any other mouth infection.

Slow Healing

Have you ever noticed a cold sore or a cut in your mouth that doesn’t quite seem to go away? This can be another way that diabetes may affect your mouth. Poor control of blood sugar can keep injuries from healing quickly and properly. If you have something in your mouth that you feel isn’t healing as it should, see your dentist.

How We Can Help You Fight Diabetes

Diabetes doing glucose level test

Regular dental visits are important. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c. (This is a lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over the previous three months. It indicates how well you are controlling your diabetes.)

Your Diabetes Dental Health Action Plan

Teamwork involving self-care and professional care from your dentist will be beneficial in keeping your healthy smile as well as potentially slowing progression of diabetes. Here are five oral health-related things you can do to for optimal wellness:

  • Control your blood sugar levels. Use your diabetes-related medications as directed, changing to a healthier diet and even exercising more can help. Good blood sugar control will also help your body fight any bacterial or fungal infections in your mouth and help relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • If you wear any type of denture, clean it each day.
  • Make sure to brush twice a day with a soft brush and clean between your teeth daily.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups.

Sources:

http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diabetes

http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/diabetes-slideshow

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For Heart Healthy Month, Get To The Dentist????? YES!

Sable DDS Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The month of February is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and increasing knowledge about prevention.

We are dedicated to educating our patients about the mouth/body connection. An increasing number of researchers are finding that there’s a link between common health conditions—like heart disease—and oral health. It’s becoming clear that the body can affect the health of your mouth and vice versa.

So, how is heart disease related to your mouth?

Several studies exist to explain the link between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease

  1.  Oral bacteria can affect the heart via the blood stream and then attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to clot formation.
  2. Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal (gum) disease increases plaque buildup, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries.

More Heart Disease/Gum Disease Connections 

  • The number one cause of death is inflammation.
  • The number one cause of inflammation is gum disease.
  • Researchers have found that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease.
  • One study has shown that gum disease, cavities and missing teeth are as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels.
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Have You Ever Had Pain in Your Tooth…But You Are Not Even Sure Which Tooth It Is?

Sable DDS sore teeth

Does that make you feel crazy?  Well…you aren’t! There are actually several reasons why it can be difficult to pinpoint the origin of tooth pain.

Let’s take a step back and consider some of the possible reasons. Tooth decay can cause bacteria to infect the interior of the tooth and then trigger pain from changes in temperature or pressure.  This pain is coming from the nerve, but those nerves aren’t tied to one specific tooth. Therefore, it can feel like the pain is coming from a group of teeth or even from the sinus area. (who knew??) This type of pain may decrease over time, even without treatment, but the problem is simply hiding in the wings… and can lead to a root canal and eventually to gum disease.

Going the other direction, gum disease can lead to root canal infection.  Common periodontal disease caused by plaque along the gum line can lead to inflammation and infection of the gums.  The gum can then begin to detach from the tooth surface and form a “pocket.” As this worsens, the infection can spread to the root of a tooth and then into the tissue inside the tooth.   The resulting pain may feel like gum and tooth pain.  Since some of these roots can be in the proximity of roots of other teeth, the infection and pain can spread to nearby teeth and gum area.

THEN to confuse matters even more, a broken tooth can cause tooth AND gum pain depending on the location of the fracture in the tooth.

So, clear as mud??  We tried to simplify this as much as possible, but we also recognize that not every dental case fits carefully into one bucket. That is why we are here to help figure it out.   If you are experiencing tooth or gum pain, give us a call; we can work together to figure out what exactly is happening and create a treatment plan to make you feel better.

So, there…all better?

(Source:  Dear Doctor Dentistry & Oral Health, Issue 20)