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Diabetes and Your Dental Health

There are 2 different types of diabetes; Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that leads to the destruction of the insulin producing cells within the pancreas.   Insulin allows your body to use the sugar contained within carbohydrates for energy or to store the excess glucose for future use.  By regulating the amount of glucose in your bloodstream, insulin helps keep your blood sugar from getting too high (hyperglycaemia) or too low (hypoglycaemia).  People suffering from Type 1 diabetes require regular insulin administration.

Type 2 is a metabolic disorder that results in hyperglycaemia due to the body being either ineffective at using the insulin it has produced or being unable to produce enough insulin.  This normally presents itself in adulthood and is linked with a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.

According to Diabetes UK, there are approximately 3.6 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.  There may also be as many as 500,000 living with the condition who have yet to be diagnosed.  So with over 4 million people in the UK living with diabetes, this represents 6% of the UK population.

Type 2 is by far the most prevalent form of diabetes and its rise is being linked with the increasing rise in obesity.  In the UK, 90% of all cases are Type 2 whilst Type 1 accounts for the remaining 10%.

Diabetes can lead to many dental problems such as;

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Salivary gland dysfunction
  • Fungal infections
  • Infection and delayed healing
  • Taste impairment

When diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in the saliva may help the harmful bacteria to thrive, which can lead to dental decay. 

Diabetics are also at an increased risk of serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infections and have reduced ability to fight bacteria which invade the gums.  Gum disease is often linked to poor control of diabetes e.g. people with inadequate blood sugar control appear to develop gum disease more often and more severely and lose more teeth than people who have good control of their diabetes.

You may have gum disease if;

  • Gums are red, sore, bleeding and/or swollen.
  • Loose, mobile teeth.
  • Chronic bad breath.

Like all infections, severe gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.

Fungal infections such as thrush can occur frequently amongst people with diabetes.  This is because of the higher blood sugar levels and if a diabetic person takes antibiotics regularly.  Poorly maintained dentures can also contribute to thrush.  It’s important to remove and clean your dentures daily to help lower your risk of infection.

These fungal infections along with a dry mouth can cause sores in the mouth along with a painful, burning tongue.  Infections in the mouth can also lead to a difficulty in swallowing and can affect taste.

Unfortunately Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented but Type 2 can be by moving more and eating less/better. 

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