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Can Poor Oral Health Cause Diabetes?

Posted on December 27th, 2019

Diabetes is a chronic and complicated disease that affects how your body processes sugar—its main source of energy. Diabetes symptoms mostly affect your heart, eyes, nerves, and kidneys, but it can affect your whole body, including your mouth.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and almost 2 million new cases are diagnosed each year. Managing your blood sugar is very important if you have diabetes and will help keep symptoms at bay. Taking good care of your oral wellness is actually one key to managing blood sugar.

Diabetes & Your Mouth

Diabetes can show itself in your mouth by causing:

  • Gum disease: This condition is surprisingly common among most adults and has an even stronger correlation with diabetes, but it can and should be treated.
  • Dry mouth: Diabetes tends to cause a decrease in saliva, which can be uncomfortable and cause bad breath.
  • Decreased ability to taste: Diabetes can make it difficult to fully taste and enjoy your food. Try new spices to improve your meals, but be careful not to use too much sugar.
  • Oral infections: Yeast (thrush) is especially common because diabetes affects your immune system. People with dentures and diabetes are at an increased risk of developing oral infections.
  • Slow healing: Diabetes can affect your ability to recover from injury and illness. Cold sores or cuts in your mouth may stick around longer if you have diabetes.

Gum Disease & Diabetes

You’d be absolutely shocked at the high number of bacteria that live in your mouth every day. Most of them are totally normal and fine. But, certain types of bacteria can be bad for your oral health and overall health.

Since bacteria live off the sugars in your mouth, people with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing gum disease from the bad bacteria. In fact, 22% of people diagnosed with diabetes will also get gum disease. In turn, gum disease infections can cause your blood sugar to elevate, which is the exact opposite of what you want. Thankfully, treating gum disease has been shown to also treat high blood sugar.

Gum disease is common and treatable and can vary in severity from a minor inflammation with sore and bleeding gums, to a major issue of receding gums, pus surrounding the teeth, and eventual tooth loss. If you have diabetes, it’s important to keep an eye on your oral health and practice good hygiene to prevent gum disease from starting or getting worse. Gum disease is linked to a number of other health problems, so you really don’t want to ignore any signs that it might be developing.

Prevention & Protection

The ADA recommends controlling your blood sugar, brushing and flossing your teeth, and seeing the dentist in order to protect your mouth from symptoms of diabetes. Controlling gum disease and practicing great oral hygiene is known to help manage diabetes.

If you’re looking for a dentist in San Luis Obispo, make an appointment at Michael Colleran, DDS today!

The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.


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About Dr. Colleran

Dr. Colleran is a nationally renowned dental author and lecturer and an expert on laser dentistry. He has spoken across the country on laser dentistry and had articles appear in several professional journals. He is also sought after by dental manufacturers as a consultant for product evaluation and research. Dr. Colleran is an instructor for the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry, which teaches LANAP and other laser dental procedures to dentists from across the globe.

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