Health Concerns and Dentistry: Your Answers to Diabetes, Pregnancy, and Cancer Treatment on the Mouth

July 27, 2022

Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body, and therefore any oral health problems that you have can negatively impact the rest of your body. But, this connection also works the other way around, where problems in other parts of the body can impact your oral health too. From diabetes and poor blood sugar regulation to the trimesters of pregnancy, and cancer treatments, these conditions can cause oral health complications.

How to Keep your teeth healthy with nutrition

I Have Diabetes. Why Is My Dentist Concerned?

If you are one of the 422 million people in the world who has diabetes [1], you may be wondering why your dentist seems overly concerned about your oral health. The reasoning here has to do with the fact that gum disease appears more frequently and severely in those with diabetes [2], and if it develops, it creates more complications.

As you know, diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugars, as it either can’t produce the insulin it needs, or it can’t properly use the insulin it is producing [3]. Your body uses insulin to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood so that your body can function properly. In those with diabetes, the regulation of blood sugar is poor, which causes damage to your organs, blood vessels, and nerves.

As a result of this, high blood sugar levels in the mouth can lead to a proliferation of bacteria, which, if left alone, causes you to be more susceptible to gum disease. If you develop gum disease, this not only leads to inflammation, but if the gums pull away from the teeth, this causes small gaps to form which leads to pockets of infection. While your body is busy fighting the infections, it will have a harder time absorbing the insulin, causing a compounding effect. For this reason, it is vital that diabetics maintain good dental health, as gum disease makes diabetes harder to control.

I Just Found Out I Am Pregnant. How Can This Affect My Mouth?

Your body is going to undergo a lot of changes, some of which are going to occur inside your mouth. For instance, increased levels of hormones in the body can cause sugar cravings and increased acidity in the mouth which can lead to the development of cavities. The more cavities you have, the more likely that the bacteria that causes these cavities will get passed on to your baby. These increased hormone levels can also temporarily loosen teeth, which can be alarming.

If you have untreated gingivitis, and it develops into periodontal disease (gum disease), the infections that result within the gums can lead to bacteremia, which is bacteria in the bloodstream. Not only is this a serious condition that needs to be treated immediately, but it is also associated with poor fetal outcomes and high mortality rates [4].

If you experience morning sickness during your pregnancy, your teeth may become exposed to too much stomach acid, which can harm the enamel coating on your teeth. This breakdown in enamel can cause cavities, or tooth sensitivity to develop.

I Am Undergoing Chemotherapy and/or Radiation Therapy for Cancer Treatment. How Can This Affect My Mouth?

Unfortunately, patients undergoing cancer treatment have a high risk of developing oral complications as treatment slows/ stops the growth of fast growing cells. This negatively impacts the cell growth in your mouth, as it slows down your mouth’s ability to repair itself.
Beyond this, radiation therapy can directly damage or break down oral tissues, bone, and salivary glands in patients who have head or neck cancer. It can also upset the balance of healthy versus bad bacteria in the mouth, which could cause changes to the mouth lining. If the lining is negatively impacted, this may lead to infections, tooth decay, or mouth sores [5].

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