Sweet Tooth: Reducing The Impact Diabetes Has On Dental Implant Success

Medical technology has advanced enough that even people with uncontrolled diabetes can successfully have dental implants installed. While studies have shown the survival rate of dental implants in diabetics to be around 92 percent, people with this disease must take extra measures in the years afterwards to prevent the implants from failing. Here are a few oral health issues that can affect the long-term success of your dental implant and simple things you can do to correct them.

Gum Infections

Periodontal disease is a term that covers infections and inflammation that develop in the gums and teeth. These conditions are caused by the rampant growth of bacteria which, left untreated, can damage the bone and gums supporting the dental implant and cause it to fall out. Additionally, the bacteria can cause a condition called peri-implantitis. This is where the organisms invade the minute openings in or around the implant and damage the tissues and bone, leading to implant failure.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing periodontal disease. One reason for this is high blood sugar levels cause a corresponding increase in glucose in the saliva, providing an ample food source for bacteria in the mouth. Another reason is diabetes has a negative impact on the immune system, which makes it harder for your body to fight off oral infections.

The best way to prevent bacteria from hurting your implant is to stay on top of your oral care regimen. This includes:

  • Flossing a minimum of once per day
  • Brushing twice per day
  • Using a medicated or antibacterial mouthwash once or twice per day
  • Cleaning your mouth after eating (by brushing or rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash)
  • Getting a professional cleaning once or twice a year as recommended by your dentist

Keeping your blood sugar levels under control will minimize the amount of glucose in your saliva and help prevent bacteria from overrunning your mouth.

Reduced Blood Supply to Gums

Excess sugar in the blood can build up on the walls of the blood vessels. It can also encourage fat to stick to the walls, causing a condition called atherosclerosis. This one-two punch inhibits blood flow, leading to poor circulation and inflammation.

It's well known that poor circulation can lead to problems in the lower legs, heart, and brain. However, poor circulation also hurts your oral health. The reduced blood flow makes it harder for nutrients and white blood cells to get to the gums and teeth which, in turn, make it more difficult for the body to keep oral tissues healthy and bacteria in check. As you know by now, free-range bacteria can destroy the structures supporting your dental implant and cause it to fail.

There are a couple of things you can do to improve circulation:

  • Get regular exercise to stimulate circulation in the entire body
  • Gently massage the gums using your finger or a specially designed toothbrush
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Eat circulation-boosting foods like dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries, and cayenne pepper

Dry Mouth

When there is too much sugar in the blood, the body tries to flush it out with water, which is why one symptom of diabetes is frequent urination. This can also cause chronic dry mouth. Chronic dry mouth also means you're not producing enough saliva, which is a problem because saliva helps wash away bacteria and the acids they produce. As a result, you may develop cavities and/or periodontal disease if you don't treat this problem and lose your implants as a result.

Some simple solutions for stimulating saliva production include:

  • Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy
  • Regularly drinking fluids (preferably water)
  • Keeping your blood sugar levels under control
  • Using a medication specially designed to increase saliva production
  • Using over-the-counter mouthwashes and oral products designed to treat dry mouth
  • Avoiding foods and fluids that dehydrate the body such as salty foods, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Quitting smoking

If you're diabetic, talk to your dentist or someone like Dale D. Lentz DDS about other things you can do to minimize the impact your condition has on your dental implants.