Diabetes can cause a drop in blood sugar when dental appointments interfere with usual food intake. This may increase the risk of hypoglycaemia (the symptoms of which include sweating, anxiety, confusion, irritability and anger) and as a consequence may result in diabetic coma. Therefore, it is advisable that diabetic patients attend their dental appointments first thing in the morning to avoid a drop in their blood sugar level towards lunch time. If patients suffer from uncontrolled diabetes then they may require a blood test to check their blood sugar level before starting any dental treatment. Complicated dental work with lengthy appointments may often require the involvement of a
diabetic physician. If patients require dental treatment under general anaesthetic (GA) then their
medical regime may have to be changed by their physician as GA requires the patient to be starved from food and drink which will affect their blood glucose levels. Diabetics often need antibiotics with dental treatment. Too much use of antibiotics over the years eventually causes resistance so when they are needed for life
threatening bacterial infections later in life, they may not work and the result could be devastating.
Effects of Diabetes on Oral Health
Uncontrolled diabetes causes gum disease. The reason for this is the immune system does not work properly so the body does not defend itself against plaque, which then causes the dissolving of bone around the teeth. If this progresses in the long term then it will cause the teeth to gradually fall out.
Diabetics have poor wound healing due to their lower immunity. This makes them more prone to dental abscesses as well as infections after dental extractions. Diabetics are also more prone to thrush in the mouth and tongue. Diabetes can sometimes cause swellings and inflammation of the salivary glands, which can be rather painful, especially when consuming food or drinks.
Oral Hygiene Routine for Diabetics
Diabetics should take care of their teeth and gums in the same way as non-diabetics do, but perhaps they need to be more vigilant and thorough in their oral hygiene routine as they are more prone to dental problems. Below are a few tips for good oral health:
- Brush your teeth twice a day, daily for 2 minutes using a fluoride toothpaste
- Use floss or interdental brushes to clean between your teeth daily
- Use a fluoride mouthwash if you tend to suffer from a high amount of
- Use a small headed tooth brush with soft to medium bristles
- The best brushing technique is achieved by placing the toothbrush at a
45 degree angle to your gums and making small circular movements
as you go along from tooth to tooth
- Apply gentle pressure when brushing your teeth to avoid abrading your
teeth (it is a myth that the harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth will
- If you are not very good at brushing your teeth then you may benefit
from using an electric toothbrush
- Reduce the frequency of sugar intake to reduce the risk of cavities
- Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups so that any early signs of gum
disease or thrush can be detected and treated.
- Visit your dentist or hygienist regularly for professional cleaning to
remove any tartar build-up and hence prevent the progression of gum
- Make sure you visit your physician regularly to monitor your blood
glucose levels and follow your treatment regime accordingly.
Remember, if your diabetes is controlled then you are less likely to
develop oral disease!