April 07 is designated as World Health Day. The theme for this year’s World Health Day is “Beat Diabetes”. Diabetes now affects 1 in every 11 adults and accounts for 1.5 million deaths each year, making it the eighth biggest killer.
In Singapore, diabetes is right behind ischaemic heart disease, as the number two cause of ill-health and death. This situation led Mr Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s Health Minister, and his ministry to “wage war” on the disease.
At Specialist Dental Group, we have been fighting diabetes in various ways too. One of it includes our dental specialists working closely with medical doctors to care for the dental needs of diabetic patients and another way is to write blog posts on diabetes-related issues, with the aim of keeping the public informed.
In our previous posts on Diabetes Part I and Part II, we highlighted the different types of diabetes and the role of a dental specialist for diabetic patients. In this post, we are going in-depth on the complications of diabetes and how it affects dental health.
There are two categories of diabetes complications, acute and chronic. Acute complications are life-threatening and happen very sudden and quickly; whereas chronic complications occur over a period of time.
Some acute complications of diabetes include:
- Hypoglycemia – having blood sugar levels of less than 70 mg / dl (normal sugar level is between 72 to 108mg / dl), which may result in seizures and loss of consciousness. This is especially dangerous if the diabetic patient is alone when such an episode happens.
- Hyperglycemic – where blood sugar levels exceed 600mg / dl (normal sugar level is between 72 to 108mg / dl), possibly resulting in extreme fatigue and coma.
- Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life threatening complication that occurs mostly with Type I diabetes and may also affect Type II diabetes on some conditions. This means that it can affect both adults and children. There may be a possibility of mortality in children with diabetic condition, if there is no immediate medical intervention.
Chronic diabetic complications may involve dental and heart issues, hand and foot problems, affect blood pressure, cause nerve damage, etc. The good news is preventing chronic complications as easy as early detection. As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’.
Clinical studies have showed close connections between diabetes and one’s overall dental health. The main link between diabetes and dental health is blood sugar level, which means there is a higher likelihood of diabetics developing dental issues if blood sugar levels are not controlled.
Here are some dental tips which are beneficial to both overall dental health and diabetic condition:
1. Keep a lookout and prevent plaque (a sticky deposit which consists of bacteria which is harmful to the gums) accumulation by observing the rule of 2-2-2: brush your teeth 2 times a day, for 2 minutes each time, and visit your dentist 2 times a year.
2. Good oral hygiene habits go a long way. When you visit your dentist, ask him or her how you can better manage your dental health in relation to your diabetic condition. It is also good to let your dentist know what medications you are taking. Since diabetic patients have a higher risk of dental issues, any dental infection detected and treated early goes a long way.
3. If you smoke, quit. Smoking increases your risk of developing gum disease and fungal infections such as thrush.
4. If you have sudden episodes of burning sensation, mouth dryness, swollen and/ or gum inflammation, visit your dentist as soon as possible. Try not to delay as early treatment will prevent these symptoms from developing into something more serious.
Management of diabetics is a lifelong responsibility. Regular visits to a dentist can definitely help to decrease the likelihood of diabetes-related dental issues from developing.