Updated 26 January 2017

Taking care of your teeth and gums with diabetes

Diabetics are encouraged to take good care of their teeth and gums as the condition can take a toll on oral health.

Gum disease, in particular, often affects diabetics who may also be prone to other mouth infections. Cape-based dentist, Dr Marc Sher, answers the following questions about this issue.

1.    How does diabetes affect oral hygiene?

- Uncontrolled type 2 diabetics (non-insulin dependent) suffer from poor oral hygiene. 

- This group of patients are mostly overweight, and their diet consists largely of sugars/carbohydrates, the consequence of which leads to rampant tooth decay.

- Advanced stages of gum disease, known as periodontal disease is accelerated in this type of patient.

- Dry mouth syndrome as a result of polyuria (passage of large volumes of urine) and dehydration, adds to the development of tooth decay and bad breath.

- Candidiasis (oral thrush) is often seen in this group.


Read:Treating type 2 diabetes

2. Are diabetics prone to mouth ulcers?

- Yes, this group is classified as having an immunodeficiency, which is a predisposing factor to developing mouth ulcers.

- Due to the fact that type 2 diabetics take an oral hypoglycaemic drug, they can develop oral lichenoid reactions as a result. Oral lichenoid reactions are not ulcers as such, but the lesions can ulcerate in severe cases.

Read: Symptoms of diabetes 

3. How to dentally treat and manage diabetic patients.

- It is best to time the dental treatment on diabetic patients (type 1) as to not interrupt their scheduled insulin intake. Diabetic coma can result if insulin is not administered in time.

- Diabetic patients (type 2) are at risk of developing a hypoglycaemic coma in the dental chair if a scheduled meal time is missed. It is best to treat these patients soon after they have eaten to avoid this.  
- A more rigorous oral hygiene routine is required for patients who are more prone to periodontal disease. Cleaning every 3 months is required.

Read more:

Diabetes and oral health

High-fibre diet may curb type 2 diabetes risk 

Causes of diabetes


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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