Managing your health can be overwhelming at times, even for healthy people.  The challenge increases for diabetics, but it’s even more important!

Saliva, under normal circumstances, is responsible for keeping our mouth healthy and free of bacteria. But in diabetics, high levels of glucose in bloodstream as well as in saliva, aid the growth of harmful bacteria.

Foods that contain sugars or starches combine with these bacteria to produce a soft and sticky film called plaque, which causes tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and halitosis (bad breath).

Some of the diabetes-induced oral problems and their symptoms:

  • Gingivitis: Inflamed and bleeding gums that are often red and swollen.
  • Periodontitis: Advanced stage of gingivitis, characterized by chronic bad breath, receding gums and formation of pus between the teeth and gums.
  • Candidiasis: Formation of white or red patches in your mouth which can potentially turn into open sores.
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth): Caused by lack of saliva, which increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Cracked lips, a rough and dry tongue are not uncommon.
  • Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, often leaving a bitter taste.

So, how can you decide if your tooth troubles are due to diabetes?

In diabetics, oral problems take a more severe form and take longer to heal. Conversely, gum diseases can make it difficult to keep your blood glucose levels in check.

Either way, your oral health cannot be neglected and an immediate visit to your dentist is in order.

Meanwhile, keep your blood sugar levels down through a combination of medication, diet control and physical exercise – high levels of blood glucose can lead to formation of plaque.

Untreated plaque eventually turns into tartar – a hard calcified deposit – making brushing  and cleaning between your teeth difficult.

Diabetics should look out for sores in the mouth that do not heal easily, a nagging pain in the jaw or mouth, loose teeth, chronic bad breath, pain when chewing food, a changed sense of taste or a bad taste in the mouth.

Most importantly, diabetics should find a dentist they love, and see him/her regularly.  Working together with your healthcare team can keep your diabetes under control, and sometimes even reverse it!