Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that allows glucose from the food to pass into cells and become the energy necessary for proper functioning of muscles and tissues. When it is not properly absorbed, the glucose continues to circulate and can reach high levels in the blood, which is known as hyperglycemia; as time goes, the tissues and organs are injured, generating general health complications.

Dryness in the mouth or xerostomia, caused by a malfunction of the salivary glands, either by metabolic and neurological problems or by the use of some medications, causes taste alterations, difficulty eating and speaking, pain and irritation and in some cases, ulcerations in the mouth.

The decrease in the antimicrobial activity of saliva and the lowering of defenses facilitate the accumulation of bacterial plaque and allow the proliferation of fungi such as Candida albicans , which produce cottony white spots in the mouth, inflammation and other inconveniences. The risk is even higher in smokers.

The thickening of the blood vessels makes the gums more susceptible to infections due to a lower flow of nutrients and the reduction of waste disposal. Poorly controlled, diabetes can cause periodontal disease that affects the gums and bones that support the teeth and can lead to the loss of teeth, which leads to nutritional deficiencies, psychosocial problems and a deterioration in the quality of life at increased risk of present renal and vascular problems. Its most frequent symptoms are sensitivity, irritation, redness and bleeding of the gums, bad breath, discharge of pus, abscesses, loosening of the teeth and changes in the bite.

Dental cavities are very frequent in diabetic persons due to demineralization of the hard parts of the teeth as a direct consequence of the elevated glucose levels that increase the survival of bacteria, especially streptococci.

To prevent and treat these oral disorders is important to maintain adequate control of blood glucose levels. Oral health care through hygienic habits such as brushing and flossing, regular dental attendance and professional cleaning with plaque removal are essential. The diabetic patient should inform his dentist that he has diabetes. It is recommended to use saliva substitutes, frequently drink water or sugar-free liquids and avoid the consumption of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol, as well as highly spiced or salty foods.