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Diabetes is a serious life-long health condition that occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body can’t process it properly. If left untreated, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications such as glaucoma and eye problems, poor healing, UTIs, gangrene, wound infections and many other health complications.

There are two main types of diabetes: 

Type 1 (IDDM) and Type 2 (NIDDM) 

Type 1 ( referred to as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus) usually occurs in younger people under 40 and has no known cause. The disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks Insulin-producing cells in the pancreas meaning the body cannot effectively regulate blood sugar levels by turning food into energy efficiently. This means the body requires insulin to be injected regularly to maintain a healthy blood glucose level.

Type 2 ( referred to as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus) is much more common. 90% of diabetics are type 2 and is usually acquired in adulthood. Some type two diabetics can be maintained with a healthy diet and exercise regime but others will require medication sometimes including insulin to maintain a healthy blood glucose level. Usually, there is insufficient insulin in the patient’s body and levels need to be regularly checked to ensure they stay in a safe range.

Hyperglycaemia occurs when the circulating blood glucose levels are too high. Hypoglycaemia occurs when circulating blood glucose levels are too low.

The two different types of diabetes are different conditions, caused by different things, but they are both serious and need to be treated and managed properly.

How can it Diabetes affect Teeth?

There are many ways in which diabetes can affect the oral environment:

Caries

Root surface caries ( occurring at the tooth/gum interface) is a common feature of poorly controlled diabetes.

Gum disease

Due to the increased risk of infections, poor healing and changes in the oral flora, this group of patients may be more susceptible to periodontal disease. Oral hygiene procedures and especially cleaning in- between the teeth is very important. This can be done using floss or interdental cleaning brushes. If you are cleaning the teeth of somebody else, a long handle interdental brush may be effective and easier to use.

Xerostomia

Dry mouth due to diabetes or the side effects of medications used to treat diabetes can make wearing dentures more difficult and uncomfortable for patients with diabetes resulting in poorer compliance.

Limitations on treatment

Due to poorer outcomes in poorly controlled diabetics, certain treatments may not be recommended by your dental care professional e.g.dental Implants; thus emphasising the importance of maintaining the natural dentition.

So what can be done?

Maintain circulating blood sugar levels within a tightly controlled range lessens many of the complications associated with diabetes. Poorly controlled sugar levels can result in the frequent consumption of high sugar foods to elevate glucose levels leading to increased risk of caries and periodontal disease.

Excellent oral hygiene

Regular dental visits to monitor caries and periodontal disease and timely appropriate intervention,  adequate hydration  and saliva replacements if required