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Diabetes is a serious chronic disorder that requires close care and management. While it has some very well-known complications, its relationship with dental health is not always well understood. Here are some things that you shod know.

Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases around the world. It is considered to be in part a lifestyle disease that has now started to spread rapidly in countries seeing an economic boom. China and India are good examples of such countries where changing food habits have started to put an enormous strain on the health of the population.

Children most often suffer from Type 1 diabetes, which was also called insulin-dependent diabetes. The underlying cause for this is genetic and does not have anything to do with lifestyle, as such. In both cases, the problem patients face is that of an increased blood sugar level, which then affects almost all the other systems in the body.

Irrespective of what the cause or the type of diabetes is, though, the complications and effects on dental health are exactly the same. Let us see in more detail how diabetes can affect the dental health of your child or other loved ones.

Here are some of the things that are seen in children with uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes.

Increased risk of developing tooth decay

Every single person has bacteria inside their mouth. These bacterial populations are normal and expected inhabitants of the mouth. In healthy mouths, the population of "good" bacteria significantly exceeds the number of "bad", cavity-causing, bacteria — which prevents them from causing havoc in the mouth.

In unhealthy mouths, the opposite is true.

An increased blood sugar level can provide the nutritional source the "bad" bacteria depend on to grow and thrive. The bacterial population will eventually shift to one that causes demineralization of the teeth, produces acid which destroys the teeth, and starts the process of causing tooth decay.

Increased occurrence of gingivitis

Gingivitis or inflammation of the gums is the first step in the development of gum disease. The most common symptom that patients note is bleeding from the gums. The cause behind the occurrence of gingivitis is the accumulation of plaque and that does not change in diabetes. 

What does change is the body's ability to fight against plaque. This means that children suffering from uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes need to have better oral hygiene than unaffected individuals because their gums are more sensitive to plaque.

Increased occurrence of periodontitis

The link between periodontitis (advanced gum disease) and diabetes is very well established. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that not only does diabetes affect every aspect of gum disease, but that advanced gum disease could affect diabetes control as well.

Some of the symptoms that are seen in advanced gum disease include food getting stuck in "pockets" around the gums, the teeth becoming loose, teeth drifting into positions that are not normal, and an early loss of teeth. Swelling of the gums, bad breath, and a constant itching in the teeth are also things that patients may suffer from if they have advanced gum disease.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to the development of something called glycated end products which accumulate inside different parts of the body, including the gums. These trigger the inflammatory reactions in the body and then initiate a destructive process which leads to the development of complications. In the gums, these complications manifest as the symptoms mentioned above.

Dryness of the mouth

A very common sign of people that suffer from diabetes is that they have a dry mouth, a condition in which saliva production is lower than normal. This is a big problem that can lead to a rapid deterioration of dental health.

Saliva is responsible for many protective functions in the mouth, among which is the maintenance of a neutral pH. The environment can become acidic in a dry mouth condition and cause the demineralization of the enamel, eventually leading to the development of tooth decay.

This kind of tooth decay can be widespread and affect multiple teeth at the same time.

Fungal infections

A small percentage of the microbial populations that live in our mouths include fungi as well. These are harmless in small numbers but can start to become problematic if they grow. One of the complications of diabetes is a reduction in the immunity of the affected individual.

The reduced ability to fight infections gives rise to opportunistic infections like thrush, caused by fungi in the mouth.

The clinical symptoms associated with thrush include a whitish coating over the tongue, inside of the cheeks, and even the lips. Patients may complain of a burning sensation on eating and an inability to tolerate the mildest of spices.

Conclusion

Diabetes affects each and every major organ system of the body and can lead to complications that are irreversible. It must, however, be remembered that there is no difference between a well-controlled diabetic individual and an unaffected individual. If the blood sugar levels are kept under control through the use of appropriate medication then none of these above mentioned complications may come to pass at all.  

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