The facts regarding Diabetes are staggering. In 2012 almost 10% of all Americans had diabetes. That is 29.1 million people. The percentage of Americans age 65 and older with diabetes is over 25%. Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, causing 69,071 deaths and contributing to 234,051 more deaths.
What is Diabetes?
We eat food so that it can be turned into sugar (glucose) for our body to use for energy. Insulin is a hormone that is made in the pancreas and is used to help transport sugar into our cells. With diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin or it can not use its own insulin as well as it is supposed to. This causes a build up of sugar in your blood which is referred to as high blood sugar. This stresses the blood vessels leading to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and lower-extremity amputations.
How is the Mouth Connected to Diabetes?
Another complication of diabetes is that the high blood sugar impairs white blood cells ability to fight off infection. White blood cells are the body’s main defense against infections that occur throughout the body and in the mouth. Mouth infections include mouth sores, tooth infections, and periodontal (gum) disease.
Consequently, dental care is of particularly importance for people with diabetes as is good blood sugar control. The less well controlled the blood sugar, the greater the chance of having oral health problems arise.
What are the Oral Health Risks of Diabetes?
Periodontitis and gingivitis (gum inflammation) Besides hindering white blood cells, another complication of diabetes is that it causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients to and waste products from body tissues. When this happens, the body's has a harder time fighting off infection, and since periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, diabetics can have an escalation of gum disease.
Xerostomia (dry mouth). Saliva flow can be reduced with uncontrolled diabetes resulting in a dryer mouth. Dry mouth can further lead to ulcers, infections, and tooth decay.
Fungal Infections (thrush). People with diabetes who frequently take antibiotics to fight off various infections run a higher risk of developing a fungal infection on the mouth and tongue. The fungus thrives on the high levels of sugar in the saliva of diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar.
Poor oral healing. Uncontrolled diabetics do not heal as quickly after oral surgery or other dental procedures as others because the blood flow to the treatment site can be impaired.
Smoking also hinders the flow of blood to the gums, so the diabetic decrease in blood flow is exacerbated by smoking. Risk of periodontal disease and thrush are up to twenty times higher than non smokers.
It's a Two-Way Street
Recent studies show that as diabetes worsens periodontal disease, the reverse is also true. Periodontal disease worsens diabetes. Uncontrolled periodontal disease can make controlling your blood sugar very difficult. Good oral hygiene and good professional care is crucial for controlling blood sugar levels.
So, What is a diabetic dentist?
Although most dentists are quite knowledgable when it come to systemic disease, many lack the special knowledge that is required in order to give the best protection for the diabetic patient. It requires a more modern view of periodontal disease as a contributing factor to the disease and more specifically the role of oral inflammation’s effect on the body’s systemic inflammation.
The dentists at Camarillo Smiles are all about wellness based dentistry. They are always considering the systemic effects of the oral cavity. This helps them make lives better and more long lasting through individualized care and education. If they can save a tooth great, but save a life…even better.
Preventing gum inflammation leads to better blood sugar control which leads to less stress on the blood vessels and a better chance for the white blood cells to travel around and do what they do best…fight infection.