Wellness Tips | 13 July, 2020

Diabetes & the Dentist

Diabetes is a disease that affects approximately 1.7millon Australians over the age of 18. It also costs Australians around $14.6 billion per annum (yep that’s billion with a b). This is a condition that can affect your eyes, nervous system, kidney, heart and more, but what does it have to do with your dentist?

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the pancreas, the organ that produces insulin, either isn’t functioning or the insulin produced isn’t effective. The role of insulin in the body is to help transport sugar/glucose into cells where it is either used as energy to allow us to function properly or stored in the liver, muscles and fat for use later.

There are two types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 - loss of pancreatic function and auto-immune in nature and
  • Type 2 - reduced insulin effectiveness and volume, which is the preventable form of diabetes.

This disease affects almost every system in the body as it hinders how we get energy into our cells. It also prevents proper functioning of the cells in our organs and tissues and can slow down the body’s natural healing process.

Diabetes & the Dentist

Diabetes affects almost every system in our body but how does it impact our oral wellness?

Gum Disease

Let’s start with gum disease. Without good blood glucose management, people with diabetes experience a higher risk of developing gum disease. This is due to the bodies response to infection and the inability to fight bacteria. This risk can be managed by keeping your blood glucose levels within the optimal range set by your doctor.

Maintaining your oral wellness by visiting your dentist regularly will help identify signs and symptoms of diabetes early and also help manage the risks of developing gum disease. Diabetes slows down our bodies natural ability to heal tissue, meaning if left untreated the effects of gum disease will remain chronic.

Tooth Decay

When we eat and drink, plaque bacteria in our mouth reacts with the sugars in our food to produce acids that can damage our teeth. These acids slowly wear away our tooth enamel causing what’s known as tooth decay.

Our saliva almost acts as our bodies natural protection from tooth decay by helping to wash away acid build up in the mouth (this is known as buffering). Diabetes can result in higher glucose (sugar) levels in our saliva and also reduce how much saliva our mouth produces (a condition known as ‘dry mouth’). Both of these create the perfect environment for plaque to thrive, produce acid and develop tooth decay.

For everyone, maintaining a consistent oral health routine is the key to reducing the risk of tooth decay. With the effects diabetes can have on our saliva this becomes even more important for people with this condition. Make sure you brush at least twice a day, floss once, and visit your dentist regularly. To help reduce acid attacks on your teeth it’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water after eating.

Reducing the Risks of Poor Oral Health

Diabetes is a good example of how every system in our body is connected. As a condition that originates in the pancreas, it can cause complications with our nervous system, eyes, heart, kidneys, and our mouth. Following these simple steps you can control your oral wellness and help reduce the risk of oral health complications developing:

Keep up your oral wellness routine

Brush at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth daily. Fluoride will help to strengthen the enamel, whilst flossing daily will remove the build-up of food and bacteria on your teeth.

Eat a low sugar diet & drink plenty of water

As dentists, we always encourage you to substitute sugary drinks for water. Fluoridated tap water can help reduce tooth decay and also help flush built-up bacteria out of your mouth. As a diabetic, if you need to treat hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) with fast-acting carbohydrates such as jelly beans it’s a good idea to drink water afterwards.

Chew sugar-free gum

In some people, diabetes reduces the production of saliva potentially causing dry mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum can help counteract this as the chewing action helps to stimulate the production of saliva. Remember to make sure you get sugar-free gum. We don’t need any extra sugars in our mouth for long periods of time.

Visit your dentist regularly

Avoid skipping your regular check-up and clean with your hygienist and dentist. We may be able to identify any oral health complications early and start a treatment plan tailored to you. We usually recommend visiting the dentist every six months but if you do have diabetes we suggest talking to your dentist about how often you should return for continual care.

Want to know more about Diabetes and the dentist? Get in touch with your nearest Maven Dental practice or visit Diabetes Australia for more information.