Dentures And Diabetes: Working With Your Dentist To Maintain Oral Health And Avoid Complications

Treatments and medical procedures to help people who suffer from diabetes have progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years, but this chronic illness can still have detrimental and largely unavoidable effects on your health. Maintaining proper oral health can be a particular challenge for diabetes sufferers -- various symptoms of diabetes can cause a variety of dental problems, and many diabetes sufferers wear dentures to replace teeth that have fallen out or have been removed as a result of the illness.

Dentures can be a tremendous boon to any diabetes sufferer who has suffered from tooth loss, making tasks such as eating and speaking much easier and increasing your confidence. However, diabetes can still cause problems even for false teeth.

How can diabetes affect proper denture use?

  • Accelerated gum recession: Most people who wear dentures will notice a certain amount of gum recession beneath their dentures, a natural consequence of the pressure placed on the gums by the dentures. However, this gum loss can be drastically accelerated by diabetes, as the tissues of the gums tend to be more fragile due to the effects of diabetes reducing the flow of blood to gum tissues. This rapid gum loss can alter the contours of your mouth until dentures no longer fit and become uncomfortable. 
  • Increased likelihood of infection: Diabetes can weaken the immune system of a sufferer, and various bacteria and pathogens can thrive in the moist, nutrient-rich places where your natural gums and dentures meet. This problem is exacerbated by the high levels of blood glucose associated with diabetes, which can cause high levels of salivary glucose, giving bacteria and fungi a ready source of energy for reproduction. This combination of factors can leave you more vulnerable to infections such as gum disease, oral candidiasis (a form of thrush) and denture-related stomatitis.
  • Xerostomia: Diabetes can also significantly reduce salivary production, leading to a condition known as xerostomia (but more commonly referred to as 'dry mouth'). Xerostomia can be painful and can make eating difficult, potentially altering your sense of taste. Saliva also contains various enzymes and immune defences, and reduced saliva can leave your mouth vulnerable to infection.

How can these problems be treated?

Anybody who has dentures fitted should visit their dentist regularly to ensure that the dentures fit properly and are not causing complications -- naturally, this is even more important for denture wearers who suffer from diabetes. There are a number of ways your dentist can help the diabetic denture wearer use their dentures comfortably and effectively and treat any complications that may arise.

  • Denture reshaping: If your gums have receded as a result of your diabetes to the point where your dentures no longer fit, your dentist can reshape them to fit the new contours of your mouth and reduce pressure on the diminished gums. In many minor cases, for example where a jutting flange is irritating the side of the mouth, your dentures can be reshaped quickly and simply by your dentist using ordinary dental equipment. However, if your dentures have drastically fallen out of alignment, they may be sent to a dental technician who will be able to affect more significant modifications.
  • Maintaining hygiene and avoiding infection: Wearing dentures does not mean you can neglect your remaining natural teeth, and you should still see your dentist regularly to have your teeth cleaned and scaled. This will also reduce the likelihood of bacteria from healthy teeth moving to infect tissues beneath the dentures. In addition, your dentist may be able to offer you a number of specialised cleaning tools to make maintaining dental hygiene easier. Antibiotic mouthwashes and topical gels are useful for people who suffer from frequent denture-related infections, while soft toothbrushes and interdental brushes can be supplied to help people with fragile gums clean their teeth while avoiding damage. 
  • Dry mouth treatments: Dentists are also able to offer a range of treatments for xerostomia, such as artificial saliva. However, you should have your dentist inspect your mouth for obvious causes of your dry mouth -- diabetes sufferers can suffer from salivary stones as a result of dehydration or as a side effect of the medications they must take, and while these stones can be painful and cause severe salivary duct blockages they are relatively easy to remove.