Diabetes as such is a major health concern. Its severity is compounded when it leads to other health issues like heart ailments. But oral problems arising out of high sugar levels can be as problematic as any other disease. So diabetics need to take care of their oral health all the more.
Diabetes, it is one disease even children would be aware of now. Does it trigger your thought process to look for a reason? There is no need to dig deep, as diabetes has become so common that every family will be having somebody suffering from the same. The scenario around diabetes has become so grim that now even children are not untouched with it.
As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the number of diabetic in India stands at around 65.1 million. The country, according to a 2012 report by International Diabetes Federation, will have over 100 million diabetic patients by 2030. The veracity is such that worldwide India is just second to China when it comes to diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that may lead to a range of complications including disability, and early death. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps the body to convert glucose from food into energy. Diabetics basically lose control over this hormone and hence on the level of glucose in the blood.
People with diabetes either fail to produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or their bodies lose their capacity to use the insulin effectively enough so as to convert glucose to energy (type 2 diabetes). This is an irreversible condition but effective management can keep the ailment in control.
Diabetes and oral health
While poor oral health exposes a person to innumerable health woes ranging from heart ailments to dementia to chronic kidney disease, as backed by various researches globally, people suffering from diabetes are also very susceptible to oral health problems because of varying or uncontrolled sugar levels. The reason for the same lies in the fact that uncontrolled sugar damages the white blood cells which are responsible for defending our body from bacterial infections. As grimy mouth is the breeding ground for such infections, diabetes worsens the condition further in the absence of low white blood cell count.
Oral problems caused by diabetes
Gum disease: Diabetes and gum diseases are totally interlinked, studies show. In fact many a times it is the swollen gums that take the patient to a dentist and ultimately it turns out to be a case of undiagnosed diabetes. In today’s world where 2 out of 5 people are diabetic, taking care of your gums is essential. If you are a diabetic and your gums are not strong enough; you won’t be eating well leading to a cycle of worsening sugar levels and inability to eat.
Fungal infections: One kind of yeast, namely Candida Albicans, is naturally present in the mouth. Its overgrowth leads to oral fungal infection called oral thrush. High sugar levels in saliva which even lead to dry mouth aggravates oral thrush. In this particular condition, people can have difficulty in swallowing and might have painful sores or ulcers as also white or red patches on the skin.
Healing woes: When there is scarcity of white blood cells due to diabetes, any infection in the mouth takes a lot of time to heal as the mechanism gets very slow as compared to other persons having normal glucose levels. Not just infections, a simple oral surgery or tooth extraction become painful for diabetes patients as the recovery process in their situation is extremely slow.
Tooth decay: When glucose levels are high, the amount of starch and sugars also increases in the saliva. Tooth decay happens when the enamel, the outermost layer of tooth, is exposed to acids constantly. The food that we eat or the drinks that we have contain sugar and starches, which triggers formation of plaque, a sticky substance consisting of bacteria, mucus and food particles. Plaque can play havoc with the healthy state of teeth by letting the acid attack to continue on the enamel. Once the enamel is invaded by the acid, the very moment tooth decay starts to happen. So higher the sugar levels, higher are the chances of tooth decay.
Precautions diabetics must adhere to
Control fluctuating/high blood sugar levels: Keeping blood sugar under control is not just good for overall health, but it is also helps avoid oral infections and further problems associated with it. One should follow the medication regime religiously and take all measures to keep a check on diabetes.
Visit dentist regularly: As diabetics are more prone to oral infections and dental problems, they should regularly see their dentists. On every visit, they should update their dentist about their diabetes condition. A constant touch with the dentist will lead to counter any oral problem in its initial stages only.
Take care of orthodontic appliances: Diabetics wearing crowns, braces or any other orthodontic appliance need to be extra cautious in handling them. As any soreness or bruise being caused due to them isn’t easy to heal. In case there is any breakage in the crown or brace, it should immediately be brought to the notice of the dentist.
Avoid smoking: Smokers who are diabetic are at a higher risk of oral infections or diseases as compared to those non-smoker diabetics. Smoking also hits the blood flow to gums, so if there is any wound in the mouth, the healing gets very slow.
As diabetes can ruin oral health of diabetics, they hence need to make extra efforts to keep it in good shape. They do not need to be battle ready, only thing they require is to stay cautious.
Readers may send their news/views/feedback to us: