Don’t Sugar Coat it! The truth about Diabetes and your Oral Health

By : Sue Ellen Umali

Diabetes has been and will continue to be a growing concern in Canada.  It is estimated that approximately 11 millions Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes and these numbers are expected to rise to 13 million in the next couple of years and that approximately 1.5 million Canadians are living with undiagnosed diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms (from the Diabetes Canada website) include

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight change (gain or loss)
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent or recurring infections
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Trouble getting or maintaining an erection

You may wonder why your dental professional is interested in knowing that you have this condition.  Simply put, the relationship between what exists in your mouth and in your body are connected.  As in the eyes are the mirror to the soul, the mouth is the reflection of your health and vice versa.  Where this affects patients who have diabetes is in the importance of minimizing inflammation.  The body doesn’t recognize that gingivitis (gingival/gum inflammation) is inflammation in the mouth.  What it does recognize is that there is a presence of inflammation in the body.  When gum disease is present in the mouth and is not controlled, the body recognizes this as a chronic inflammatory state.  This can be detrimental and can contribute to uncontrolled diabetes.

So how can your dental professional help you?  Informing your dental professional that you have diabetes or suspect you may have diabetes or have family history of diabetes will help us determine what course of action to take to ensure your risk is minimized.  If needed we will collaborate with other professionals working with you towards improving your diabetes status.

Creating a plan to reduce inflammation in the mouth can be done by

  1. Improving homecare which will reduce plaque (soft deposits) which triggers the inflammatory process. Pay particular attention to cleaning between your teeth as this accounts for 40% of the tooth surfaces and the areas most often neglected.
  2. Visiting your hygienist regularly to remove hard and soft deposits that can increase the progression of gum disease.  Based on your hygienist’s assessment, frequency of dental hygiene visits will depend on your current gum condition.
  3. Improving food choices to decrease plaque production and avoid ones that will cause a spike in blood glucose levels.

Being a dental professional is all about improving your oral health and doing what we can to ensure overall health.  In order to do so it is important for us to look at all aspects of your health and lifestyle.

Together, we can improve your overall health and your quality of life!

By Sue Ellen Umali-Lee