Lancaster dentist Dr. Matthew Kingston explains how diabetes impacts oral health and how improved dental care can help control diabetes
Smiles and Your Health Topics: Diabetes and Oral Health
Diabetes is a disease that affects greater than 18 million Americans and over 171 million people worldwide. Thankfully, the disease has been studied extensively, and with the help of medications, can be controlled in most instances. However, there are some circumstances in which diabetes is difficult to control or cannot be controlled at all. In these cases, diabetes can have profound effects on a person's overall health, and their oral health.
Because one of the side effects of diabetes is an increase in the body's inflammatory response, diabetes can sometimes lead to oral infection, or periodontal disease. (Periodontal disease is chronic inflammation of the gum tissue.)
Lancaster dentist Dr. Matthew Kingston and the Healthy Smiles Dental team treat many patients who have diabetes. "In the case of diabetes, there is an inflammatory response by the body due to the effect of high blood sugar (or hyperglycemia). This inflammation can cause the gum tissue to be inflamed, deteriorate, and periodontal pockets to form," he explains.
At the same time, periodontal disease can have a profound effect on the management and control of one's diabetic condition. "In the same way that increased blood sugar causes inflammation, the presence of excessive plaque and oral bacteria causes inflammation of the oral tissues. This allows periodontal bacteria an opportunity to enter the blood stream. As the inflammatory response increases, the diabetic condition is exacerbated," he notes.
In addition to periodontal disease, other common side effects of diabetes that affect the oral cavity include:
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia)
- Increased tooth decay
- Bleeding gums
- Oral yeast infections (Candidiasis)
- Burning mouth syndrome
- Poor wound healing
- Lichen Planusr
But, according to Dr. Kingston, there is good news! Studies have shown that managing oral health and eliminating gum disease has a profound effect on controlling blood sugars and diabetes. "When patients inform us of their diabetic condition, we tell them about the risks that are before them. We encourage these patients to see their physician to be certain they are managing their blood sugar effectively. Then we give them all the tools they need to help manage their oral health," he says.
Some of the additional "tools" necessary in oral health maintenance for a patient who has diabetes include:
- More frequent cleanings to remove plaque and tartar (minimally every six months, but frequently every three to four months).
- Increased home care instruction on proper brushing and flossing.
- Use of oral rinses that include Chlorhexidine Gluconate (Peridex) or over-the-counter products such as Listerine to decrease inflammation.
- Comprehensive oral evaluations for the symptoms and signs of uncontrolled diabetes (such as dry mouth, bleeding gums, bad breath, and increased dental decay).
Diabetes is a disease that many people in Lancaster live with daily. By managing the factors that increase the risk for the diabetic patient, oral health can be improved and patients can maintain their teeth. Similarly, proper management of blood sugars will decrease systemic inflammation and therefore decrease risks to overall health. "A comprehensive treatment plan that lays out exactly what needs to be done helps our diabetic patients take control their oral health and better manage their diabetes," Dr. Kingston says.