Dental Health and Diabetes

By Dr. Nicole Fulp

Understandably, a visit to the dentist’s office might not be the most beloved task on your to-do list. Who wants a stranger prodding and poking and forcing you to say “ah” in a place as ultrasensitive as your mouth? However, the long-term side effects of not seeing a dental care practitioner are far worse than the annoyances associated with a routine dental visit.

For people who are living with diabetes, these routine check-ups and cleanings are particularly important for their dental and overall health. Diabetes can take its toll on the teeth and gums. Currently, there are 25.8 million people or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population, who have been diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated 6.2 million who are living with the disease but are unaware of their condition.

Oral Symptoms Specific to Diabetic Patients

So, what are the oral symptoms specific to patients suffering from diabetes? Possible symptoms include gingivitis, periodontitis, recurrent oral fungal infections, burning mouth, diminished sense of taste, dry mouth and abscesses. While everyone is prone to periodontitis, or diseases of the tissue surrounding the teeth and gums, people with diabetes can often have more severe cases that can cause additional diabetic complications.

“Diabetics also have more sugar in the mouth, which provides a more hospitable environment for hostile bacteria, making all forms of periodontal disease more likely,” according to Dr. Nicole Fulp, with Fulp Family Dentistry. “Uncontrolled diabetes can decrease saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can further lead to sores, ulcers, infections and tooth decay. The saliva that usually washes away the bacteria and plaque on your teeth is not there when you have dry mouth, causing decay to flourish. “

Additionally, oral infections are more common in diabetics, especially when blood glucose levels are not controlled. In the case of an acute oral infection, not only may antibiotics be needed, but modifications to a patient’s medications may also be necessary. For example, an increase of the insulin dose to prevent hyperglycemia related to the pain and stress from infection.

Thinking about skipping that next dental visit?

Think again! Keeping up with your oral health as a diabetic is extremely important in reducing the risk of infections. One of the major differences between a diabetic and a non-diabetic patient is the amount of healing time needed after a procedure, namely a tooth extraction or deep cleaning. “Although everything will heal normally, it may take slightly longer for the diabetic patient. Healing times and other complications will vary from patient to patient depending on how well the diabetes is controlled,” said Dr. Fulp.  

The good news?

By practicing good oral hygiene habits, many of the problems discussed here are easily avoidable. Diabetes should not limit you, but it should be a compelling reason to be more cautious and take dental care – including those pesky routine check-ups – very seriously.

Fulp Family Dentistry is a family dental office located in Tifton, Georgia. Dr. Nicole and Dr. Scott Fulp offer family dentistry and cosmetic dental services such as whitening, crowns, Invisalign, veneers, implants and more to Tifton and surrounding communities including Sylvester, Adel, Ashburn, Fitzgerald, Ocilla and Nashville.