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Diabetes and your oral health

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Did you know: Some of the first signs of diabetes can occur within the mouth?

Diabetics may be more at risk of oral health problems. Due to a compromised immune system, diabetics will also commonly experience reduced resistance levels to fight off gum disease, and other oral health complications that people without diabetes would usually efficiently recover from.

This means that by paying close attention to your oral health, it may lead to an earlier diagnosis and treatment. If you suffer any of the following symptoms, and your immune system seems to be struggling to fight off the infection or heal itself in a timely manner, you may wish to consider a trip to your doctor.

What are the most common oral health issues, diabetics face?

While anyone can be faced with oral health complaints, diabetics are generally more at risk and may find the road to recovery is a longer process than those who don’t suffer diabetes. The most common oral health ailments include:

  • Gum abscesses  lichen planus
  • Lichen planus (an autoimmune skin condition, also known as “geographic tongue”)
  • Fungal infections (a yeast infection of the mouth, caused by an overgrowth. Includes oral thrush, also known as “candidiasis”)
  • Ulcers of the mouth
  • A burning or dry mouth (due to low saliva levels)
  • Gum disease (also known as “periodontal disease”)

So what should I look out for?

While a dry, burning mouth and ulcers may be self-explanatory, if you have never experienced any of the above ailments, it may be hard to identify you even have an issue. On top of this, some people may find the idea of an oral health issue embarrassing so discussion surrounding these health issues is rare. If you suffer any of the following symptoms please don’t hesitate to contact our caring, friendly staff to discuss your concerns. To help you out, we have listed some of the less talked about ailments, and their most common tell-tale symptoms.

It is extremely important if you notice any of the following symptoms you contact your dentist immediately.

Gum disease

It is important gum disease be stopped in its tracks as soon as possible. Gum disease is caused by an infection which attacks the jaw bone, eventually leading to tooth loss. Any of the following symptoms could be a sign of gum disease and should be taken seriously.

  • Tender, swollen, red gums that bleed (especially when brushing)
  • Pus being discharged from the gums
  • Gums that are loose and have pulled away from the teeth
  • Constant bad taste in the mouth
  • A feeling of “loose” teeth, especially when you bite or place your teeth together.
  • Teeth shifting, causing spaces.

Candidiasis

Oral thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth. Low saliva levels are also a contributing factor to yeast infections.

  • A “cottony” feeling in the mouth
  • Loss of, or diminished taste
  • Creamy lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks, and other tissues of the mouth (often described to resemble “cottage cheese”)
  • Cracking and redness of the mouth corners

Geographic tongue

While typically considered a minor condition, if you also suffer diabetes your immune system may have difficulties fighting the infection on its own. Typically an appointment should be made with a doctor or dentist if it hasn’t cleared within 10 days; however, we don’t recommend waiting this long. The sooner you can be assessed, the sooner you can start treatment. Symptoms may include:

  • Irregularly shaped smooth, red patches on the top or side of the tongue
  • These patches may change their location, size and shape frequently
  • Discomfort or pain, sometimes even a burning sensation (most commonly related to the consumption of hot, spicy, salty, or acidic foods)

What can I do to minimise the risk of these issues?

If you are concerned about your oral health, here is a short list we have created to help minimise the risk.

  • Follow dietary and medical advice, this will help maintain glucose levels as close to an optimal level as possible. Maintaining glucose levels helps aid the immune system.
  • Use a toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Start using dental floss daily
  • Book regular dental check-ups. Your dentist will be able to offer advice regarding home care, early intervention and preventive measures to maintain optimal oral health.
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Chew sugar-free gum which aids saliva stimulation
  • Quit smoking

Diabetes and your oral health

If you suffer diabetes, or are experiencing any of the above symptoms and would like a check-up don’t hesitate to contact our friendly staff at Honeysuckle Dental on (02) 4915 9230, or click here to request a consultation

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