The state of your teeth and gums can have a major impact on anyone’s overall health, and there are established links between diabetes and the health of the mouth. According to dentist Richard Guyver, “Not only does diabetes increase the risk of mouth inflammation, but inflammation in the mouth increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, or make it harder to control your blood sugar if you already have it.”
People with diabetes may have an increased risk of dry mouth, tooth decay, oral thrush, and gum disease. Says Guyver, “Diabetics are twice as likely to have gum disease as those without diabetes. Any worsening of gum disease in someone with diabetes can be an indicator that kidney failure may follow.”
Research has shown that inflammation in the mouth (i.e. gum disease) can increase susceptibility to diabetes, can disrupt glycaemic control and even affect the body’s production of insulin. If you’re already diagnosed with diabetes, it is suggested that by controlling inflammation in the mouth you can reduce your dependency on your medication as well as lessen the impact of the condition on the rest of the body.
Be in no doubt, most people have low-grade infections in their mouths all the time, which is often spotted as blood on a toothbrush or when spitting out. What is less obvious is that by-products of these infections are released into the blood and can damage the pancreas, so your ability to produce insulin is reduced. This can trigger type 2 diabetes or make both type 1 and type 2 diabetes harder to control if you already have it.
Inflammation can result from any crack in a tooth which goes beyond the gum, tooth decay, or from badly-made fillings or crowns that don’t fit properly or gum disease. As well as low-grade gum infections, teeth can have low-grade infections too. Often these are completely symptom free, sometimes they only give mild symptoms such as a small lump that comes and goes on the gum, often with no pain. Any inflammation is exacerbated by dry mouth (as saliva carries immune components which help the body destroy bacteria) and smoking.
Guyver (pictured right) has developed the diabetes-dental matrix, a system that allows dentists to assess the aspects of the mouth that influence diabetes, and the aspects of diabetes that influence the mouth. This means he can see how one impacts on the other, and offer solutions to help improve both.
Diabetes and Dentistry (www.diabetesanddentistry.co.uk) offers free information both to the general public and to dentists.