Diabetic Living

Diabetic Living
1) What are the most common oral health problems affecting people with diabetes?

By far the most common oral health problem associated with diabetes is periodontal (gum disease).  However other oral complications of diabetes include dental decay, dry mouth and burning mouth sensation.

 2) As a diabetic how do I know if I have gum disease?

The most obvious sign would be bleeding gums following tooth brushing or use of dental floss.  Another very important sign is regular and recurring periodontal abscesses.

3) As a diabetic what should I do to prevent tooth and gum problems?
  • Seek regular care and advice from your dentist or periodontist
  • Maintain a high level of oral hygiene (brushing and flossing)
  • Reduce sugar intake – more so for control of dental decay – (sugar intake is not related to gum disease)
4) I occasionally suffer from a dry, burning mouth – why is that?

Dry Mouth: Arises from lack of saliva production in some diabetics.  Diabetics often complain of increased thirst and this may also be associated with a dry mouth feeling.  .

Burning Mouth:  This sensation results from what is called a “neurosensory disorder” and is characterised by a “burning sensation” in the cheeks and gums all around the mouth.  The cause of this neurosensory change is unknown.

5) How often do I need to get my teeth checked?

As a diabetic 6 monthly dental check-ups would be advisable to monitor for both gum disease and tooth decay.

Below are some interesting figures in relation to diabetes and gum disease from the USA.  From my experience these probably hold true for Australia.

Periodontal (gum) disease is recognised as the sixth complication of diabetes1:

  1. Eyes (retinopathy)
  2. Feet (neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease)
  3. Kidneys (nephropathy)
  4. Impotence (erectile dysfunction)
  5. Heart & blood vessels (cardiovascular disease)
  6. Gum disease (periodontal disease)

The following statistics are from a Harris Interactive Survey commissioned by Colgate-Palmolive, USA; 2013:

  • People with diabetes are two times more likely to develop gum disease
  • 59% of Americans with diabetes are not concerned about gum disease
  • 67% of diabetics say they never discuss oral health with their doctor
  • 36% of diabetics say they never talk to their dentist about diabetes and oral health
  • 20% of diabetics report they do not have a dentist

1Löe H. Periodontal disease. The sixth complication of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 1993 Jan;16(1):329-334. 

As featured in Diabetic Living Magazine – March 2015 Issue

Mark Bartold
Mark Bartold

Founding Member Oral Health Advisory Panel, Colgate Australian Clinical Dental Research Centre, University of Adelaide, specialising in periodontics.

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