Individuals suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing dry mouth (xerostomia). Abnormal insulin production and/or absorption rates, which occur in diabetes, can cause the salivary glands to not release adequate amounts of saliva. According to experts, diabetes is likely the most frequent metabolic disease with salivary implications, due to the ever increasing numbers of people impacted by the disease. In 2016, there were more than 29 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, and 86 million with pre-diabetes, a serious health condition that increases one's risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Patients with xerostomia often have difficulty with many aspects of eating and swallowing. Denture wearers with diabetes may develop sores or have problems keeping dentures comfortably in place. In addition to dry mouth, many people with diabetes can experience taste disorders, excessive thirst, or a painful tongue.
Facts and Stats
Although research has shown that xerostomia is frequent among people with diabetes, most studies have not conclusively demonstrated that these rates are higher than in people without diabetes. This is not an exact science because there are many co-occurring health conditions that are contributing factors to developing dry mouth. Other factors that can cause salivary disorders in people with diabetes include advanced age, head and neck radiotherapy, systemic disorders, and several drugs. The following facts and stats are gathered from recent research.
- Xerostomia associated with parotid gland enlargement affects nearly 25% of patients suffering from moderate to severe type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The parotid gland is the larger one of the two salivary glands, responsible for releasing saliva into the mouth.
- A 2016 systematic review of xerostomia and diabetes studies showed higher prevalence in people with diabetes compared to those without, however, only four studies uncovered statistically higher results. Overall prevalence rates were 12.5-53.5% in people with diabetes compared to 0-30% in those without the disease.
- One study showed that patients with poorly controlled diabetes had a higher xerostomia prevalence rate than those with well controlled diabetes, 54% versus 47%, respectively.
Type 1 diabetes, once called juvenile-onset diabetes, is a chronic disease that predominantly affects individuals ages 25 and younger. It is often caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the body's defense system attacks the cells that produce insulin. For reasons that are still not fully understood, people with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin and therefore require daily insulin injections.
Type 1 Symptoms
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Tingling in the feet and hands
- Blurry vision
- Weight loss, even though you are eating more
- Lack of interest and concentration
- Frequent infections
- Slow-healing wounds
Type 2 Diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, the body's muscle cells, fat, and liver respond abnormally to insulin, a condition referred to as insulin resistance. When this occurs, blood glucose (sugar) cannot reach the cells that normally store the glucose used by the body as an energy source. As a result, high sugar levels accumulate in the blood, creating a condition called hyperglycemia. Although people with type 2 diabetes can often initially manage this condition, after a period of time, many rely on oral medications or insulin. The disease often goes undiagnosed for years since the symptoms are often not as obvious as in type 1.
Type 2 Symptoms
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased hunger, thirst, and urination
- Infections and/or wounds that heal more slowly than usual
- Numbness in the hands or feet
- Blurry vision
The longer one has diabetes, especially if left untreated, the more potential the disease has to wreak havoc on the entire body. Lack of awareness about diabetes, combined with insufficient access to health services, can lead to complications that impact the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves, as well as oral health.
Why Does Diabetes Cause Dry Mouth?
According to Dr. Leigh Anderson, experimental trials have resulted in evidence that insulin abnormalities have indirect and direct effects on the function and structure of salivary glands. This may be attributed to the unhealthy impact that unstable blood glucose levels have on the salivary glands' ability to release adequate saliva into the mouth.
People with diabetes have oral diseases in large part due to dry mouth. However, the small amount of saliva secreted by the parotid glands contains excessive amounts of unabsorbed glucose, which further contributes to the deterioration of teeth, gums, and overall oral health. Dental decay and dry mouth start when different types of anaerobic bacteria adhere to tooth enamel, the tongue, or the back of the throat — places where oxygen is negligible. Extremely high amounts of sugar-based acids are produced by these bacteria, leading to accelerated rates of dental decay and gum disease.
In addition, people with diabetes often complain of bad breath and bitter, metallic, or sour tastes. The bacteria that cause bad breath, taste disturbances, and dry mouth produce sulfide molecules particularly at the back of the tongue — an acidic, sugary, dry, anaerobic environment where bacteria thrive.
If left untreated, dry mouth can lead to many oral health issues including gingivitis and gum disease. People with diabetes can reduce or eliminate xerostomia by carefully checking glucose intake, eating the right foods, taking medication as directed, maintaining a healthy weight, regularly monitoring insulin levels, and following general prevention tips.
When the mouth is properly hydrated and free of food debris, the potential for gum and dental disease is greatly reduced. TheraBreath oral hygiene products contain natural yet powerful ingredients that directly target xerostomia symptoms and the bacteria that proliferate in dry conditions. TheraBreath toothpastes, mouthwashes, and sprays increase the flow of saliva. They are effective at freshening breath and moistening the mouth and because they are sugar free, are ideal for diabetes-related oral health issues.
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* Statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your healthcare professional before beginning any new therapy.
Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/diabetes.htm, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4958434/, http://www.bgscb.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Vol9-107-119.pdf