Diabetes and Dry Mouth
Cracked lips, parched throat, dry, rough tongue, difficulty swallowing— the clear signs of dry mouth—are experienced by one out of five people worldwide. This condition is often ignored by the general populace until it worsens, or unless it indicates a more serious condition.
Xerostomia has many identified causes. The most common include insufficient intake of liquids, sleeping with the mouth open, and cigarette smoking, among others. But oftentimes, xerostomia isn’t caused by personal patterns of behavior. Certain medications such as anti-depressants, sleep medications, ADHD medicines, antihistamines, and narcotics can trigger dry mouth. In any of these cases, removing the root cause of the dry mouth is the key to resolving the issue.
But in instances when dry mouth is intertwined with diabetes, this is unfortunately not the case.
Dry Mouth and Diabetes
One of the strongest indicators of diabetes is dry mouth, with a study showing that more than 90% of diabetic patients exhibit its symptoms. For individuals with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, their elevated blood sugar levels and medications make them extremely susceptible to dry mouth.
It starts out as a domino effect before it goes full circle: high blood glucose leads to increased urine production to flush out the excess blood sugar. Frequent urination leads to significant loss of fluids in the body—dehydration. The dehydration manifests in the lack of production of saliva, causing xerostomia. A study also proved that diabetics produce less saliva than non-diabetics. When the diabetes has been identified and addressed with multiple medications, certain medications may further aggravate the dry mouth. Dry mouth that is influenced by a consistent upsurge of blood glucose levels can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and mouth sores. These diseases heighten the blood sugar production of the body in a cycle of fighting off the infection, failing, and then trying again.
Not Just A Symptom
In these cases, dry mouth is not only a sign of diabetes, it becomes the cause of it.
The high blood sugar levels exacerbate the dry mouth and all the oral health complications that may arise—tooth decay, gum diseases, mouth inflammations. In turn, these infections cause the body to produce more blood glucose in the body’s attempt to combat the diseases.
When the condition escalates to this level, the only resolution is to enforce practices that address the high blood sugar levels and the dry mouth simultaneously.
Some steps to alleviate the symptoms caused by dry mouth include: increasing the intake of water, preferably small sips frequently throughout the day than drinking large amounts one at a time; active avoidance of foods and beverages with high sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol content; chewing sugar-free gum that contain xylitol to activate saliva production, and eating high-fiber fruits and vegetables. This should go together with good oral health practices such as brushing the teeth twice a day, flossing after every meal, and using non-alcoholic mouthwash when necessary. It is extremely important to go to the dentist for regular visits and as often as necessary.
However, any attempts to resolve the dry mouth alone will be futile if the high blood sugar levels remain unchecked. Constantly consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive plan that is tailor-fit to your needs. If any medications are causing the xerostomia, certain adjustments will have to be made. Key practices will have to be taking medications as strictly prescribed, eating a well-balanced diet that includes low-sugar, high-fiber foods and beverages, and monitoring the blood glucose level regularly.
Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.