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Diabetes is a condition in which a person’s pancreas does not produce adequate insulin to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range.  There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 (formerly called juvenile diabetes) and Type 2 (adult-onset diabetes). Type 2 is the more common form of the condition.  Ideally, Type 2 diabetes is controlled with a balanced diet, exercise and daily blood glucose monitoring. If normal blood glucose levels cannot be achieved, medication may be necessary.

Diabetes plays a role in the function of all the bodily systems including your oral health. The condition hinders one’s resistance to infection and this can be a factor in tooth decay and gum disease.

Though the bacteria in a diabetic person’s mouth and a non-diabetic person’s mouth is the same, the inflammatory response to the bacteria is greater in an individual with diabetes. Therefore, a diabetic can be more susceptible to gum disease. Some studies indicate that early signs of periodontitis (gum disease) can be an indicator of type 2 diabetes. A 2011 study in the Journal of Dental Research reported that dentists could predict 73% of individuals with undiagnosed diabetes based on clinical evaluations and the presence of periodontal disease. Additionally, once the gum disease is treated, an individual may see improvements in glucose levels.

In addition to the greater risk of gum disease, a person with diabetes may be prone to fungal infections in the mouth. Some fungi in the mouth are present naturally, but this greater inflammatory response and a compromised immune system create a greater likelihood of developing the fungal infection. The most common fungal infection in oral health is oral candidiasis, or thrush.

A lack of saliva can be an issue for diabetics. Saliva plays an important role in the body’s defense systems. In oral health, saliva protects the gums from infection. If there is less saliva, there is less protection for the teeth against acid and plaque which promote tooth decay. To stimulate the production of saliva, one can try chewing sugar free gum or candy if it is not feasible to brush or rinse with water.

Though uncontrolled diabetes can result in some of these problems, one episode of high or low blood glucose isn’t harmful to oral health.

Knowing your glucose levels and addressing any issues related to levels outside the normal range is vital to your overall health and your oral health. Maintaining good oral hygiene is critical in managing oral health. Brush twice daily, floss once a day and visit Dr. Jekel every six months.