Individuals suffering from Type I and Type II diabetes are at risk for experiencing dry mouth syndrome, or xerostomia. Significant dysfunction of the salivary glands' ability to release adequate amounts of saliva is often observed in people diagnosed with abnormal insulin production and/or absorption rates.
Patients complaining of xerostomia have difficulty with all aspects of eating and swallowing. Diabetic denture wearers often develop denture sores and have problems keeping dentures comfortably in place. Taste disorders, excessive thirst and a painful tongue also plague diabetics with dry mouth syndrome.
When dry mouth is not adequately treated, oral hygiene is severely affected and frequently leads to:
- Fissuring and inflammation of the lips
- Chronic mouth lesions and/or tongue ulcerations
- Dental caries--cavities, teeth abscesses and dental pulp infections
- Oral candidiasis (oral thrush)
- Infection of the salivary glands
- Bad breath exacerbated by diabetic conditions
Dental caries and dry mouth are initiated by different types of anaerobic bacteria that adhere easily to tooth enamel, the tongue and the back of the throat 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.
Research shows that xerostomia associated with parotid gland enlargement affects nearly 25 percent of patients suffering from moderate or severe Type I or Type II diabetes. The parotid gland is the larger one of the two salivary glands that wrap around the lower mandible and release saliva via Stensen's ducts.
What Exactly is Diabetes?
Type I diabetes occurs predominantly in individuals under the age of 25 and is characterized by the inability of beta cells located in the pancreas to produce enough insulin for proper glucose absorption by the body. Because glucose accumulates in the bloodstream of people suffering from Type I diabetes, they fail to benefit from the energy that is supposed to be provided by optimal glucose absorption. Symptoms of Type I diabetes include:
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Tingling in the feet and hands
- Blurry vision
With Type II diabetes, it is the body's muscle cells, fat and liver that 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 for energy use by the body. As a result, high sugar levels accumulate in the blood, creating a condition called hyperglycemia. Symptoms of Type II diabetes are:
- 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
Unless both diabetic types are correctly treated, the patient can develop serious health complications involving kidney failure, heart disease or even limb amputation as a result of gangrenous infections.
Video on Diabetes and Dry Mouth
Why does Diabetes Cause Dry Mouth?
According to Dr. Leigh Anderson of the University of the Pacific's Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry (www.dental.pacific.edu), experimental trials have resulted in evidence that insulin abnormalities have indirect and direct effects on the functioning and structure of salivary glands. This can be attributed to the unhealthy impact that unstable blood glucose levels have on the ability for salivary glands to release satisfactory amounts of saliva into the mouth.
Periodontal disease is a chronic disease found in the majority of patients suffering from dry mouth and diabetes. While xerostomia directly provokes incidences of oral diseases in diabetics, the fact that the small amount of saliva secreted by parotid glands is excessively rich in unabsorbed glucose further contributes to the deterioration of teeth, gums and overall oral health.
Bacteria thrive in the sugary, dry, anaerobic environment found in diabetics suffering from xerostomia. Gingivitis, a colorless, sticky film comprised of corrosive bacteria, forms quickly on the gums and teeth of mouths that are not adequately treated for xerostomia.
When gingivitis is left to accumulate, the result is a raging case of periodontal disease manifested by swollen red gums, loose teeth and bad breath. Pockets of pus may form between the gums and upper parts of the teeth, ultimately causing gums to start receding from the teeth. This provides even more space in which food particles and mouth debris can collect, which is the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth.
In addition, advanced periodontal disease has been known to affect mandible bone growth in a way that inhibits the ability to bite, chew and talk properly. In a critical case like this, surgery is often needed to correct serious malformations of the jaw that may provoke other health issues.
Tips to Prevent Dry Mouth and Periodontal Disease Caused by Diabetes
Ways that diabetics can reduce or eliminate xerostomia are to keep their glucose levels regulated by eating the right foods, taking medication if necessary, maintaining a healthy weight and regularly monitoring insulin levels. Keeping the mouth as clean and salivated as possible can also be accomplished by performing the following actions each day:
- Brushing twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride
- Flossing after every meal
- Using mouthwash that does not contain alcohol, saccharin or foaming detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate
- Drinking plenty of water
- Eating more vegetables and fruits
- Avoiding sugary beverages
- Scraping the tongue with a professional tongue scraper
- Chewing gum or sucking on mints containing xylitol, a known breath freshener
Unfortunately, the majority of over the counter products intended for oral hygiene enhancement contain ingredients that actually induce bacterial growth, halitosis and even tooth decay. Alcohol especially is a known desiccating substance that dries the mouth and throat. Saccharin is merely a taste enhancer that has provides no benefits to decreasing dry mouth or bad breath and sodium lauryl sulfate is actually a cleaning solution used as a foaming agent in toothpastes and shampoos.
Only TheraBreath oral hygiene products contain natural yet powerful ingredients directly targeting xerostomia symptoms and the bacteria that proliferate in dry, stagnant conditions. Without using unnecessary ingredients or abrasives, TheraBreath toothpastes, mouthwashes and sprays effectively kill bacteria and alleviate dry mouth by increasing saliva flow which gets rid of bad breath common to diabetics.
When the mouth is properly hydrated and free of mouth debris, the potential for gum and dental disease is greatly reduced. Dr. Katz's line of TheraBreath products provides diabetics (as well as people suffering from dry mouth syndrome) the ability to improve all facets of oral hygiene with daily use of its mouthwashes, rinses and toothpastes that contain natural, non-abrasive ingredients guaranteed to freshen breath and eliminate dry mouth.