Most people with diabetes can name the major complications of untreated high glucose levels. They will list heart disease, kidney disease, eye problems including blindness, and amputation of toes and feet. Few will list gum disease and lost teeth. But that is right up there in the top five complications.
In fact, it is the dentist who often is the first to diagnose diabetes. If you think about it, the mouth is full of bacteria, and a high-sugar environment is an ideal place for bacteria to thrive. Once a patient develops periodontal disease, there is no cure, and the inflammation it causes can actually make blood glucose control more difficult. But gum disease can be managed. This might include nonsurgical scaling, irrigation, local or systemic antibiotics or surgical interventions.
So what must you know if you have diabetes? Pay attention to symptoms of dry mouth; red, swollen or bleeding gums; unusual spacing between the teeth or loose teeth; or an unusual color of your tongue. If you note any of these, bring it to the attention of both your doctor and your dentist. Get your teeth professionally cleaned as often as you can afford it -- twice a year at a minimum. Even if you brush and floss regularly, that professional level of cleaning is important if you have diabetes. Be sure the dentist and hygienist know you have diabetes and the medications that you take.
If you have children, you might also ask your dentist about a relatively new process to salvage stem cells from the baby teeth. The hope is that the technology will exist one day to turn the stem cells in the pulp into new insulin-producing cells, should the child ever develop diabetes.
More Answers from Baptist Health South Florida