First and foremost, let’s understand diabetes, it’s a disease in which the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents and is a lifelong (chronic) disease. In Type 1 diabetes, there is no insulin to help glucose get into the cells, sugar builds up in the bloodstream where it can cause life-threatening complications.
Nothing happens overnight, there are enough symptoms to gauge the seriousness of the condition. Like most of the diseases, diabetes has its own set of symptoms exhibited especially by children with diabetes. It includes but does not limit to thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, vision changes, fruit or sweet-smelling breath and even weight loss. It is very important for the parents or guardians to understand these, and take the required action in time.
Children with diabetes face a higher risk of gum disease because of poor blood sugar management. In fact, those with gum disease can actually cause a slight rise in blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the child’s oral health to avoid cavities and gum disease. Diabetes can further contribute to bacteria growth in the mouth, a plaque build-up and gum disease while also weakening the body’s ability to fight back.
In order to maintain good blood sugar levels, one needs to maintain a good balance of food, exercise and medication. Hence, proper blood sugar control is the key to controlling and preventing oral health problems.
Apart from these, there are several other oral complications that occur in children with diabetes, tooth decay being the most common one. In this condition, there is less creation of saliva which leads to dry mouth and a higher chance of contracting cavities. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms in the mouth. The bacteria feed on starches and sugar in the food and beverages and forms acidic by-products that damage teeth and causes cavities. Dry mouth also leads to soreness, ulcers and infections.
Inflamed gums is another problem, which is caused because of inflammation of the gums and is very common to occur in people with diabetes. Over time, the plaque also hardens into calcium deposits known as tartar which can cause the gum line to become red and inflamed. It also causes the gum line to recede. Those who don’t have good control over their blood sugar levels tend to have more oral health problems.
Diabetes causes the blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes. The body’s reduced resistance to infection increases the risk of gum and bone tissue destruction. As a result of diabetes, oral wounds take longer to heal.
Dr Reshma Shah, Paediatric Dentist at 32 Reasons, Mumbai.