While anyone can experience a dry mouth, in people with diabetes, it could be a sign of something more serious.
Clinically known as xerostomia, dry mouth is a common symptom experienced by people with type 1 and types 2 diabetes.
Diabetes can slow down saliva production. This might not sound like a significant side effect, yet saliva plays a vital role in producing enzymes that attack bacteria. Without it, bacteria go unchecked, which can result in soreness, ulcers, and periodontal disease.
Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for dry mouth (xerostomia) in patients with diabetes mellitus, some of which we will discuss in this article.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dry Mouth?
As well as experiencing a dry mouth, other symptoms may include:
- A rough, dry tongue
- Irritation at the corners of the mouth (mouth sores)
- Gum inflammation (gingivitis)
- A lack of moisture in the mouth
- Frequent pain in the mouth
- Cracked and chapped lips
- Infections in the oral cavity
- Difficulty with swallowing, talking or chewing
- Bad breath
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What Causes Dry Mouth?
The causes of dry mouth remain unclear, but according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), two of the most common for people with diabetes a combination of high blood sugar and side effects of medication. Other causes can include:
- Dehydration / increased thirst
- Kidney dialysis
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Breathing through your mouth
- Diabetic neuropathy (a form of nerve damage)
What Are The Risks Of A Dry Mouth?
When blood sugar is not well controlled, there is increased glucose in the saliva. This will, in turn, create a suitable medium for bacteria to grow and thrive.
Plaque-causing bacteria grow and form plaques on the teeth. In addition to this, studies also notice that diabetes causes changes in the immune system.
The immune system releases some chemicals which can cause irritations and inflammations in the body. This makes it easier for the bacteria-causing plaques to cause gingivitis, which is a bacterial infection in the gums and can easily be reversed by oral hygiene.
If left untreated, gingivitis in people with diabetes can get worse quickly due to the disrupted immune system releasing these inflammatory chemicals.
A lack of saliva can result in several oral health problems. It increases your risk of cavities and gingivitis (also known as gum disease), according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
It can also raise the risk of developing tooth decay and fungal infections such as oral thrush, which needs to be treated with anti-fungal medication. If your symptoms of a dry mouth are persistent, it’s likely a sign that your blood sugars are running too high regularly.
Chronic dry mouth is easy to dismiss as no big deal, but it can easily lead to an infection and gum disease if left untreated. Like any infection, gum disease can make it hard to keep your blood glucose levels under control.
How Is Dry Mouth Treated?
Dry mouth can have a harmful effect on your health, causing unpleasant symptoms and complications that can interfere with diabetes management.
What’s more, it could be an indication that your blood sugar levels are not being effectively controlled. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can have a determinate effect, so if you are experiencing chronic dry mouth, it may be worth reviewing your diabetes management plan with your doctor.
- If your dry mouth is being caused by a type of medication, determining and withholding that particular medication can resolve the issues.
- Drinking plenty of water is important for general health and can also benefit oral health.
- If your blood sugar is causing dry mouth, managing your blood sugar levels should help improve your symptoms.
- Visit your dentist twice per year for easy dental cleanings.
- Quit smoking and chewing tobacco.
- Chewing on sugar-free gum or sugar-free candy can help to improve saliva production.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine which can dry out the mouth.
- Avoid breathing through your mouth.
- Practicing good oral hygiene every day. This involves brushing your teeth and gums, flossing, and using mouthwash.
- You can request oral rinses from your doctor.
Dry mouth can often be an underestimated symptom of type 1 and 2 diabetes, yet left untreated can cause harmful complications. It can also be a sign of high blood glucose levels.
Implementing blood sugar control and practicing oral hygiene can help to prevent dry mouth and reduce the risk of developing complications such as gum disease.