Diabetes and Your Oral Health

Did you know that more than 30 million adults in the United States have diabetes, and 1 out of 4 of them don’t even know it yet? The risk of death for adults with diabetes is actually 50% higher than for those without it. It’s a pretty big deal. That’s why November has been designated as National Diabetes Awareness Month, in an effort to bring attention to the challenges diabetes can pose to your health.

Diabetes takes a toll on your whole body, including your oral health. In fact, diabetes has been linked to approximately 20% of cases of total tooth loss. The good news is, by controlling your diabetes and knowing how it can affect your mouth, you can prevent  many of the dental issues caused by the disease.

Here’s a look at five of the problems diabetes can cause in your mouth and what you can do about them, from the dental experts at MouthHealthy.org.

Gum Disease

A little pink in the sink when brushing or flossing could be an early sign of gum disease. If left untreated, the bone that supports your teeth can deteriorate, ultimately leading to tooth loss. With a proper dental hygiene routine, including brushing, flossing and a healthy diet, early gum disease can be reversed. Research has shown that gum disease can get worse if your blood sugar is not under control, making it that much more important to control your diabetes.

Dry Mouth

Research has found that those living with diabetes produce less saliva, often leading to the feeling of being parched or extra thirsty. Drinking water can definitely help fight dry mouth, as can chewing sugarless gum and eating healthy, crunchy foods to stimulate saliva flow. This is particularly important because less saliva combined with extra sugar in it is a recipe for cavities.

Change in Taste

If you have diabetes, you might notice that flavors might not taste as rich as before. While this might be a bit disappointing, now might be a good time to experiment with different tastes  and textures. Just be sure not to add too much sugar to your food in an effort to add flavor. This could affect the quality of your diet and lead to more cavities. If you have a persistent bad taste in your mouth, it’s time to see your dentist or doctor.

Infections

Diabetes also affects your immune system, making you susceptible to infection. One common infection among those with diabetes is a yeast infection called oral thrush. The yeast thrives on the higher amount of sugar found in your saliva, and it presents as a white layer coating your tongue and insides of your cheeks. It is more common in people who wear dentures and often leads to a bad taste in your mouth. If you think you have thrush, or any other mouth infection, see your dentist or doctor.

Slow Healing

Another way that diabetes may affect your mouth is in the slow healing of a cold sore or cut in your mouth. Poor control of blood sugar can keep injuries from healing properly. If you have something in your mouth that isn’t healing, it’s time to see your dentist.

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