a man in a mirror brushing his teeth

Periodontal Disease in People with Diabetes Can Lead to Tooth Loss

We all know that diabetes is a deceptive disease that affects many South Africans, but what about its effect on our teeth? According to Mouth Healthy, nearly 22% of people diagnosed with diabetes also have periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, but luckily this is preventable. We’re here to help you understand this condition and its risks so that you can keep your mouth healthy and your teeth intact!

Periodontal Disease and Tooth Loss

How does periodontal disease develop? Not unlike diabetes, periodontal disease can sneak up on you. Inadequate brushing and flossing can cause a build-up of plaque (a sticky film of germs) on your teeth, especially around the gumline. If not regularly removed, the germs in the plaque can cause inflammation of the gums. This is typically the first stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis. You will recognise the signs of gingivitis as red, swollen, or bleeding gums. When untreated, gingivitis will become more severe, resulting in periodontitis.

As plaque continues to form, it eventually hardens into tartar, which causes your gums to pull away from the teeth. This results in the formation of loose pockets. The toxins cause an infection within these pockets that targets the bone and ligaments surrounding the teeth. These bones and connective tissue keep your teeth in place. If they weaken, your teeth will begin to loosen, ultimately resulting in your teeth falling out or breaking.

Diabetes and Tooth Loss

You probably know that people with diabetes typically have poor blood sugar control, but did you know that poor blood sugar control can increase the risk of developing gum disease? If your diabetes is not controlled correctly, higher blood sugar levels in the mouth will help germs to grow. Diabetes also compromises your resistance to infections. The combination of these two factors can make people with diabetes especially susceptible to gum disease. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss or your teeth falling out.

Preventing Tooth Loss

We have some good news for you! Periodontal disease can be prevented by communicating with your dentist and taking care of your teeth. If you have diabetes, here are some things to keep in mind while working with your dentist:

  • Set up regular exams and professional cleanings to make sure nothing is amiss.
  • Follow up regularly with your dentist on your diabetes status, blood sugar levels, and any new medications you may be taking.
  • Call your dentist if you experience any of these symptoms: swollen, red, bleeding or receding gums, sensitive or loose teeth, bad breath, or difficulty chewing.

You may want to work with your dentist to develop a customised plan to keep your mouth healthy. Additionally, it’s important to keep your oral care routine on track.

Remember to:

  • Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, since toothbrushes can harbour germs.
  • Use a prescription-strength mouthwash to help you fight gum problems if recommended by your dentist.

The possibility of tooth loss or your teeth breaking or falling out can seem scary, but it’s important to focus on how preventable it is. And what’s more, when your periodontal health is good, your blood sugar levels are also easier to control! Now that you know more about the connection between diabetes and tooth loss, you’re much better equipped to ensure all your teeth stay healthy and whole.

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