By Dr Sparkman Ferguson
WORLD Diabetes Day is observed this Friday.
Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar can affect your entire body, including your mouth. Managing your blood sugar is therefore the indispensable key to your health maintenance if you have this health challenge.
Dental care is particularly important for people with diabetes because diabetics face a higher than normal risk of oral health problems due to poorly controlled blood sugars. The less well controlled the blood sugar, the more likely that oral health problems will arise. This is because uncontrolled diabetes impairs white blood cells, which are the body’s main defence against bacterial infections that can occur in the mouth.
Uncontrolled diabetics are at higher risk for:
• Dry mouth: This is because the condition causes a decrease in the flow of saliva. Dry mouth can lead to soreness, infections, ulcers and tooth decay.
• Gum diseases: This is because gum diseases are caused by bacteria., and the body is not equipped to fight as well. All gum diseases occurring in diabetics are more frequent and more severe.
• Thrush: This is because people with diabetes who frequently take antibiotics to fight a variety of infections are especially prone to developing a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. The fungus thrives on the high levels of sugar found in the saliva of these individuals.
• Burning mouth: This is caused by the presence of thrush.
• Poor healing: Uncontrolled diabetics experience poor healing of mouth soft tissues because blood flow is impaired to areas where surgical procedures may have been performed.
General dental care tips for diabetics:
• The first and obvious tip is to seek to keep the blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
• At each dental visit, discuss your recent past test results with your dentist. Also mention whether you have experienced any recent complications etc.
• See your diabetes doctor before scheduling treatment for periodontal disease. Ask your doctor to talk with your periodontist or dentist about your overall medical condition before treatment is undertaken.
• Bring your dentist a list of all the medications you have been prescribed by your physician.
• Because healing can be slower, if dental surgery is performed, follow closely the instructions from your dentist.
• Diabetics with orthodontic braces should report immediately if a wire or bracket is sticking or cutting the tongue, gums, or anywhere in the mouth.
Daily dental care tips for diabetics
• Brush and floss twice daily.
• Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash, which can be helpful in reducing bacterial levels in the mouth.
• If you wear dentures, remove and clean them daily. Do not sleep in them.
• If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking.
• Seek professional cleanings 2-4 times each year to ensure control of gingivitis or periodontal disease.
Diabetes is a serious health condition. Since there is no cure for the disease, management and control of blood sugar is the goal of all concerned.
Persons diagnosed with diabetes ought never take this health concern lightly. Sustained elevated blood sugar has been known to bring along numerous devastating medical complications.