Diabetes may affect the body's ability to control blood sugar, but that doesn't mean the affected person is at fault. This chronic condition often gets a bad wrap as a purely lifestyle-induced disease. Children and adults with type 1 diabetes often lead a healthy lifestyle. But that doesn't stop the development of the disease.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that prevents the pancreas from producing insulin. This causes blood sugar levels to rise uncontrollably. Even though type 1 diabetes was once referred to as a childhood disease (juvenile diabetes), it can affect anyone who has a genetic history of autoimmune disorders or diseases.
What does type 1 diabetes have to do with dental health? Like the rest of the body, the mouth is affected by this condition. If your child, family member, or loved one was recently diagnosed with type 1, take a look at the impact that diabetes can have on oral health.
Dental caries (more commonly known as cavities) are areas of decay. Poor oral hygiene and lax nutritional habits can lead to the development of cavities, whether someone has diabetes or not. But diabetics are often at increased risk of developing dental caries - especially if the disease is undiagnosed or uncontrolled.
Diabetes, when not controlled properly, can cause dry mouth. Salivary secretions play a vital role in oral health. An adequate amount of saliva protects the teeth, washing away debris and other invaders. A reduced amount of saliva may result in a higher likelihood of cavities.
Blood sugar control is the first step in a diabetic's dental health. While blood sugar control doesn't guarantee that the diabetic's dry mouth symptoms will disappear, it can help to alleviate the problem. Along with maintaining blood sugar, regular visits the to the dentist's office can help to reduce the cavity risk.
Periodontal, or gum, disease isn't just painful. The bacteria that causes the disease can affect the entire body - especially for diabetics. Gum disease, like any other infection, can cause blood sugar levels to go up. This can make controlling diabetes challenging at best.
Not only does gum disease make controlling diabetes more difficult, but diabetes itself can put the patient at higher risk of developing gum disease. Diabetes can slow down the healing process, leaving the diabetic open to developing long-term or chronic infections that don't heal easily. Gum disease is one of these infections.
The close connection between gum disease and diabetes makes it crucial that all diabetics get regular dental care. Keep in mind, regular at-home care is also equally as important. If the diabetic experiences gums that are swollen, tender, red, and prone to bleeding, the dentist can provide a treatment plan that can help to get the periodontal disease under control before it causes other issues.
Along with raising blood sugar, gum disease can increase the likelihood of developing other serious issues such as heart disease.
Healthy Mouth Considerations
With the increased risk for dental health issues that diabetes can cause, regular visits to the dentist and routine brushing and flossing are both critical. Adults can typically handle the increased dental needs that often come with this disease. But if your child is the one with type 1, you probably know what a challenge that can be.
Children often don't understand the serious nature of dental diseases. Even if the child is completely aware of the problems that type 1 diabetes can create, they may still seem lax when it comes to brushing or flossing.
What can you do to help your child with type 1 maintain a healthy mouth? Make and keep all regular dental appointments. You can also encourage at-home care with a sticker chart or by making brushing fun. Try turning on music when your child brushes or have them play follow the leader - following your brushing lead.
Does your child or family member have diabetes? Contact us for more information on dental health.