Dental-related warning signs

Diabetics should look out for dental-related warning signs as gum disease can make this group of metabolic diseases harder to control.

"One of the clearest signs that a person has undetected diabetes or poorly-controlled diabetes is the presence of periodontal or gum disease," said Dr Helena Lee, dental specialist in periodontics, Specialist Dental Group.

Periodontal disease needs to be detected and thoroughly managed as the disease and diabetes are closely related.

Controlling diabetes will prevent periodontal disease from getting worse, said Dr Lee. Be aware that severe periodontal disease leads to an increase in blood glucose levels.

Dr Lee said she has asked patients to be tested for diabetes after examining their mouth and periodontal condition.

"It turned out that they were indeed diabetic and some of them had severe levels of the disease but didn't know."

Here are the warning signs that you may have diabetes:

•Red, swollen and bleeding gums.

•Missing teeth. A 40-year study found that diabetic patients were more likely to have missing teeth than healthy individuals.

•Sores (ulcers) or wounds that do not heal.

•Bad breath that produces a sweet and fruity odour. This is a sign of ketoacidosis, which is a result of the acetone (a ketone) that the body's organs are producing. Ketones are known as "aromatic compounds", hence the sweet, foul breath.

•Dry mouth, due to dysfunctioning salivary glands.

Joyce Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'Dental-related warning signs'. Print Edition | Subscribe