Diabetes is a disease that prevents your body from using or producing the hormone insulin. Insulin plays an important role in transporting sugars around for the body to use. With diabetes, this transport system is interrupted either by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body’s inability to utilise insulin (type 2 diabetes).
What does this have to do with teeth and gums? Well, when sugars aren’t transported correctly, they build up, disrupting the body’s immune system. This means that all the bacteria that invade under the gums (which are normally fought off by the body’s immune system) are able to destroy the surrounding areas around the teeth. The destruction of these areas causes the teeth to appear longer as the underlying support is being destroyed and eventually the teeth become wobbly and can fall out. The increase of bacteria underneath the gums can also lead to very bad breath which does not go away even after brushing your teeth and using mouthwash!
Dry mouth and fungal growth
Not only does diabetes inhibit the immune system, but it also can decrease saliva flow. This in turn can dry out the mouth which can lead to fungal growth inside the mouth. As the fungus grows, it can cause a burning sensation or “strange feeling” inside the mouth.
The combination of increase in bacteria and dry mouth can also lead to tooth decay. Bacteria can start to gather on the teeth and without the protect feature of saliva, start to cause harmful acids which eat away at the tooth and cause tooth decay.
What do I do?
If you have diabetes all is not lost! The good news is that all these symptoms and conditions mainly occur when diabetes is uncontrolled. With early detection, regular dental check-ups and good control of diabetes, most of these issues can be avoided. Dentists are commonly the first health professionals to detect diabetes, which is why regular dental check-ups are important, not only for healthy teeth and gums, but also for an overall healthy life.