Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Diabetes and Oral Health

Everyone is at risk of developing periodontal disease, but all people with diabetes, regardless of age or type of diabetes, are more susceptible. There are several reasons for this.
For one, people with diabetes can have more sugar in the mouth which provides a more hospitable environment for hostile bacteria. This makes all forms of periodontal disease and tooth decay more likely.
High and fluctuating blood sugar levels are also a factor in the increased risk of periodontitis and more vulnerability to complications. Patients with diabetes may also experience dry mouth as a result of reduced saliva. Neuropathy and certain medications may be the cause of reduced salivary flow which is a natural protectant against oral disease. Healing is also more difficult once an infection sets in. Just like diabetics with poor control have a hard time healing wounds and infections on their feet, their bodies have a hard time fighting infections and healing wounds in the mouth.
If and once an infection takes root a vicious cycle ensues making metabolic and infection control a struggle. This cycle can have drastic consequences. If oral infections get out of control they can lead to problems serious enough to land a person with diabetes in the hospital, to say nothing of the damage to the teeth and gums. Infections can also impact Insulin needs. Authors of a study cited in September's 1997's Practical Diabetology concluded that when an infection is rampant, patients with diabetes often have increased insulin requirements. If periodontal disease is treated and gingival inflammation is eliminated, these insulin needs often decrease. Collagen, which is a building block of the tissue that attaches teeth to bones and the surrounding soft tissue, is also affected by diabetes which make an infection potentially more destructive. 
In conclusion diabetics have an increased risk of dental problems and for this reason not only should they keep their diabetes under control with a healthy diet and meds if needed, they also need to be especially vigilant with their hygiene and visit the dentist on a regular basis.