What Is Hypoglycemia, and How Does It Occur?

Your main source of energy is the sugar glucose that is distributed to your body via your bloodstream. The hormone insulin regulates blood sugar to keep it at appropriate levels to meet your body’s demand. If this blood sugar drops below safe levels, this condition is called hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia generally occurs when your fasting blood sugar level drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s important to note that the range for blood sugar level varies between individuals, and you should ask your doctor if your range differs.

Hypoglycemia is most common in those with diabetes but can result from other conditions. Potential causes of hypoglycemia include:

  • Type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other hormonal conditions
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Medications, especially if you took medication, you were not prescribed.
  • Rare conditions that cause an overproduction of insulin
  • Illnesses including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and kidney disorders
  • The composition of the foods included in your meal choices

It’s essential to check in with a doctor if you believe you’re experiencing hypoglycemia, especially if you’re unsure of the underlying cause.

Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

Low blood sugar is a common concern for those with diabetes, often from taking too much insulin. According to a PloS One study, hypoglycemia is common for those with type 2 diabetes, regardless of the treatment regimen. People with type 1 diabetes experience an average of two symptomatic episodes per week, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Even though your blood sugar rises and falls throughout the day, it's still dangerous to have an especially low level. Untreated hypoglycemia can be life-threatening and lead to injury from dizziness, weakness, confusion, or blurred vision.

Untreated hypoglycemia can lead to various serious complications, so it’s crucial to control your blood sugar. If you’re having trouble managing your diabetes, we recommend speaking to a doctor. Doctors are experts in controlling your blood sugar and can help set you up for success with your medications or routine changes.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Low blood sugar has a wide range of symptoms that can vary depending on your health and situation. Because the symptoms vary from mild to severe, it’s important to take hypoglycemia seriously.

While these symptoms can be frightening, they’re also incredibly helpful as they can inform you that you have low blood sugar. Experiencing these symptoms could be a sign that you need to take action to correct your blood sugar. As a result, becoming familiar with these symptoms is a vital step in fighting hypoglycemia.

Symptoms of low blood sugar may include:

  • Pale skin
  • Sweating
  • A feeling of shakiness
  • Feeling weak, tired, or a lack of energy.
  • Stress, anxiety, or irritability
  • Increased hunger
  • Numbness in your lips, tongue, or cheeks
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Blurred or disturbed vision
  • Syncopal episodes (loss of consciousness)

The Mayo Clinic recommends visiting a doctor immediately if you have hypoglycemic symptoms and do not have diabetes or if your symptoms are not responding to treatments like consuming sources of glucose.

Hypoglycemia and Your Oral Health

When you have a hypoglycemic episode, the proper action may be to consume sugary drinks or foods to raise your blood sugar. This response presents an increased risk to your dental health as sugary items can lead to increased risk for cavities.

Low blood sugar is not known to cause dental issues directly. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your oral health if you have diabetes because it impacts your mouth in various ways.

Oral problems associated with diabetes:

  • Dry mouth: High blood sugar can cause a lowered saliva level in your mouth, leading to a dry feeling in the mouth. This can increase your risk of cavities and other dental problems.
  • Gum disease: If your blood sugar is not under control, you are at increased risk of developing gum disease.
  • Disease and infection: Because diabetes can impair your immune system, it makes you more susceptible to disease and infection in your mouth.
  • Change in taste: Diabetes can change the way you perceive the flavor of your food.
  • Slow to heal: Uncontrolled blood sugar can cause wounds not to heal as quickly as they would otherwise.

If you consume a sugary item to combat hypoglycemia, try rinsing with water to limit the damage it can do to your dental health. Also, be sure to brush twice a day and floss once a day.

Hypoglycemia Treatment and Prevention

Because hypoglycemia is low blood sugar, the treatment is raising your blood sugar back to the recommended range. This increase is usually accomplished by consuming a fast-acting carbohydrate, drinking fruit juice, or consuming glucose tablets. Note that raising your blood sugar does not treat the underlying cause of your hypoglycemia.

It can be difficult to choose the appropriate amount of carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar. The 15-15 rule says that you should consume 15 grams of carbohydrates and recheck your blood sugar in 15 minutes. If your blood sugar is still below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), consume another serving of carbohydrates. After your blood sugar normalizes, consume a snack to ensure it does not drop again.

Good choices to raise your blood sugar include:

  • Glucose or gel tubes per the provided instructions
  • Non-diet soda (4 ounces or a ½ cup)
  • Sugar, honey, or corn syrup (1 tablespoon)

Avoid overcorrecting your blood sugar by eating too much, so it doesn’t go from being too low to too high. Checking your blood sugar regularly is the best way to stay ahead of potential problems. Some of the best times to check it include:

  • Before and after eating
  • When waking up and going to bed
  • After rigorous exercise
  • During times of change in your routines, such as an increase in exercise or a shift in your work schedule

Hypoglycemia can be challenging to avoid, so familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms is vital. Be sure to speak to a doctor if you’re having trouble controlling your symptoms or have not been diagnosed with diabetes. You’ve made a great choice for your health by choosing to read up on how to recognize and prevent low blood sugar.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 


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Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay