Diabetes And The Dental Patient

           Diabetes mellitus is a disease of the pancreas. The pancreas is that organ that secretes enzymes (digestive juices) into the intestines to break down food particles so that they may be absorbed by the intestinal lining and converted into carbohydrates (simple sugars such as glucose), among other things, in the bloodstream. It also secretes insulin into the bloodstream to promote glucose utilization as a nutrient needed for the different tissues of your body.

           There are two types of diabetes. Type I requires the use of insulin injections to control the situation. This type is termed insulin dependent or juvenile diabetes. Type II diabetes is called non-insulin dependent or adult onset. As the second type's name implies, insulin injections are not needed to control this condition. Type I diabetes occurs when a your immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in your own pancreas that produce insulin. Type II diabetes is commonly found in patients age 35 and older who are obese, but other conditions (such as pregnancy) can cause this form. In Type II diabetes normal amounts of insulin are produced by the pancreas, but blood glucose levels are so high that they cannot be handled adequately. Diet modification and oral medications (such as diabinase) are used to treat Type II diabetes by lowering excessively high blood glucose levels to a point where the body's normal insulin production is effective.

           The physical afflictions caused by diabetes are a result of unused glucose in the bloodstream. Two main problems arise in this situation; blood flow (especially in smaller vessels) is restricted due to its thickened consistency and nutrient availability to the tissues served by these smaller blood vessels is diminished. This induces changes in these tissues that include decreased function, increased risk of infection, delayed healing and degeneration. Examples of tissues affected include; your eyes, your kidneys, your joints, your nerve endings, YOUR GUMS, YOUR SALIVARY GLANDS and your bones (including YOUR JAWBONES).

           If you suffer from uncontrolled diabetes your mouth will deteriorate. Degenerating gums will recede exposing the roots of your teeth and predisposing them to temperature sensitivity and cervical decay that is intensified by xerostomia (dry mouth) caused when your salivary glands falter. Declining jawbone levels will cause your teeth to shift, loosen and be lost. Areas where teeth are lost will not heal normally. You will experience an increasing frequency of gum infection. These are signs and symptoms of periodontal disease and diabetes is a major risk factor for and contributor to periodontal disease. You may also experience an altered sense of taste or a burning sensation in your mouth and be at higher risk for such oral diseases as candidiasis (commonly called thrush) as well as lichen planus or other ulcers of the mouth.


 Periodontal disease is often the consequence of diabetes.

           It is imperative that you are under the direct supervision of a physician if you are diabetic. Recent studies have shown that rigorously monitoring and aggressively managing blood sugar levels greatly minimizes the complications of diabetes, especially Type I (the more profound form). If your physician is unaware of this, find one who is. Proper treatment of this disease can give diabetics an almost normal quality of life!

           When appropriately controlled, diabetes need not cause impairment of your oral health. Proper nutrition, thorough homecare, replacement of missing teeth and more frequent cleanings here in our office will prevent the problems associated with diabetes from occurring.



Related Pages

Join Our eMail List


Dr. Barry F. McArdle, D.M.D. ~ 118 Maplewood Avenue, The Captain Moses House, Suite B-7, Portsmouth, NH 03801

Questions or Request an Appointment: Contact Us     Phone: 603-430-1010     Email: drmcardle@mcardledmd.com     Website: http://mcardledmd.com