Story last updated at 3/26/2014 - 1:36 pm
Regular dental checkups are essential to maintaining oral health. In addition to preventing dental caries and removing tartar that contributes to gum disease, dental checkups can alert patients to other potential health problems. For example, symptoms of periodontal disease may be indicative of the presence of diseases that stems from outside of the mouth, including diabetes. Diabetes, a condition of uncontrolled blood sugar or insulin production, can affect many areas of the body, including the mouth. Diabetics face a high risk of oral health problems because of fluctuating levels of blood sugar, which impairs white blood cells. White blood cells are the body's main defense against disease and are dispatched when a virus or bacteria is present. Should white blood cells be rendered less effective, the body's defense system is compromised and infections can occur in the mouth and elsewhere.
Those with diabetes may complain of certain oral symptoms. Uncontrolled diabetes can result in a decrease in saliva flow, which leads to dry mouth. Saliva is important to wash away bacteria in the mouth.
Gum inflammation can occur because diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, slowing the flow of waste and nutrients from bodily tissues. An increase in bacteria and the compromised state of white blood cells makes for the perfect environment for periodontal disease. Furthermore, uncontrolled diabetes can make it more difficult for the mouth and other areas of the body to heal. Therefore, there may be recurrent mouth infections, sores and other symptoms of irritation. Thrush, a condition of overabundant yeast in the body that can cause white patches and soreness in the mouth, is also more prevalent among diabetics.
The American Diabetes Association says that not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. Many people are unaware they have diabetes until an oral health exam raises a red flag that warns of uncontrolled blood sugar.
Those who are aware of their diabetes should take treatment seriously to keep blood sugar levels in check. They also should discuss their diabetes with a dentist and other oral health practitioners so that a custom exam and screening schedule can be implemented. It is vital for diabetics to maintain oral health to reduce the risk of infections of the mouth that can spread elsewhere throughout the body.