The link between Type 1 diabetes and dental problems may not initially be an obvious one. However, it is just as important for people living with Type 1 diabetes to look after their oral hygiene as it is to control their diabetes from the moment of diagnosis.
Type 1 diabetes and tooth problems: teeth decay
Sugar and tooth decay (or cavities) go hand in hand. Poorly controlled diabetes causes elevated blood glucose levels in the blood, but also in the saliva, promoting the development of cavities.
It should be noted that even before decay is diagnosed, teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold could be early signs and should prompt a visit to the dentist. If detected early, tooth decay can be quickly and easily treated. But to prevent reaching this stage, regular brushing and flossing is the best strategy.
An essential partner: saliva
Saliva is secreted by the salivary glands. It is essential to keep the mouth moist and to protect it against infection. A reduction in saliva has consequences.
And Type 1 diabetes causes xerostomia, dry mouth due to reduced saliva production. In people living with Type 1 diabetes, this dry mouth is a factor that promotes bad breath, or halitosis, as well as more frequent mouth and dental infections. Basic measures, like stopping smoking and staying well hydrated, will help you reduce the risk of dry mouth problems.
Gingivitis: the solution is a trip to your dentist
Gingivitis, or gum disease, affects everyone, but people living with diabetes more than most. This gum inflammation causes the gums to become red and swollen and they may tend to bleed more easily when you brush your teeth.
Gingivitis is caused by chronic deposits of dental plaque, a product secreted by bacteria. Over time, the dental plaque gradually hardens and turns into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental hygenist with a scaler. Even scrupulously brushing your teeth cannot prevent the development of dental plaque. It is therefore essential to visit the dentist regularly because if it’s left untreated, gingivitis can get worse and periodontal disease can develop. This can be a very serious dental complication in people living with Type 1 diabetes.
Periodontal disease: prevention is better than cure
If you have swollen gums that bleed at the slightest contact and loose teeth, you may have periodontal disease. This feared complication of untreated gingivitis is much more common and much more serious in people living with Type 1 diabetes. Periodontal disease corresponds to an infection of the periodontium, which is the tissue supporting the teeth. It can ultimately lead to tooth loss and bone destruction. In this case, surgery may be required.
This situation is relatively rare nowadays because diabetes is increasingly well managed and people are much more aware of the need for good oral hygiene.
Brushing your teeth, visiting the dentist regularly and carefully managing your diabetes will keep you smiling!