By Dr Sparkman Ferguson
A physician once said to me that he thought that diabetics each possessed a “stubborn gene”. He was speaking about his experience with his diabetic patients, and how many of them ignored good medical advice because of their headstrong nature.
The goal for a diabetic patient is to normalise blood sugar and then work to keep it under control. This requires strict dietary attention and careful daily monitoring.
Everyone knows that a controlled diabetic (for all practical purposes) functions like a normal person. Conversely, an uncontrolled diabetic has the potential to develop many complications.
The goal is always to keep this disease under control.
Notwithstanding all the potential medical complications, dental concerns show up for all uncontrolled diabetics.
Uncontrolled diabetics face higher risk of:
- Gum inflammation (gingivitis) and periodontitis
A complication of uncontrolled diabetes is the thickening of blood vessels. This slows the flow of nutrients to, and waste products from body tissues, including the mouth. This combination of events coupled with the weakening of the white blood cells causes the mouth to lose its ability to fight infections. Since periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, people with uncontrolled diabetes experience more frequent, and more severe gum disease.
Bacterial infections of the gums are treated with antibiotics. This makes diabetics prone to developing fungal infections of the mouth and the tongue called thrush. The fungus thrives on the high level of glucose found in the saliva of diabetics. The thrush causes a burning sensation in the mouth and the tongue.
- Poor healing of mouth tissues
People with uncontrolled diabetes do not heal quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures because blood flow to the treatment areas can be damaged.
- Dry mouth
Uncontrolled diabetes causes the decrease in salivary flow, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth can further lead to tooth decay, ulcers, soreness and infections.
Notwithstanding the many deep complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes, mouth associated concerns can be very uncomfortable. Although there is treatment for all the available mouth conditions, pre-diabetics and diabetics ought to pay special attention to disease control.
Diabetes is a multi-faceted disease. Every advice from a physician ought to be taken seriously, and all instituted treatment protocols ought to be followed.
Because of the numerous complications that can be experienced from uncontrolled diabetes, the best defence is to maintain control of the blood sugar.
Although every person should have two professional dental cleanings each year, a diabetic should consider a minimum of three professional dental cleanings a year. This is all geared at reducing the risk of any type of gum disease.