WHILE blood sugar control may be the most immediate concern for people affected by diabetes, it’s also important to take special care of the mouth, due to a higher risk of oral disease.
Diabetes levels around the world have risen dramatically in recent years and South Africa is no exception; it’s estimated that around seven percent of adult South Africans are affected.
Oral health conditions associated with diabetes include gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath and dry mouth. Emerging research suggests a link with poorer glycaemic control in people and advanced gum disease (periodontitis).
The cause of many of these concerns is increased levels of glucose in the saliva, which creates an ideal breeding ground for the oral bacteria that cause halitosis, cavities and gingivitis.
► See also: Oral Manifestations of HIV: Case Studies
People with diabetes also tend to have a lower resistance to infection and heal more slowly, which can exacerbate gum problems.
Bleeding gums usually indicate gum disease, which is reversible if treated correctly in the early stages. You might find your gums bleed a little if you start flossing or become more diligent in your oral care routine.
However this should only last a day or two, so it’s important to consult your dental professional if your gums bleed for longer.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common side effect to diabetes and often an early sign prior to diagnosis. Because saliva is the body’s natural way of cleaning the mouth, plaque and bacteria build up more quickly in a dry mouth, increasing the likelihood of gum disease, decay and bad breath.
Drinking water will give temporary relief and chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow. There are also products especially developed to help produce saliva that lubricate, soothe, promote soft tissue repair and create a protective coating in the mouth. Available at pharmacies, or ask your dentist or doctor.
Work as a team with your dental professionals. Ensure they know that you have diabetes and book a dental check-up and professional clean at least every six months, more if necessary.