Diabetes and dry mouth: is there a connection?

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Dry mouth woman

Close up picture of suprised ginger woman covering her mouth and looking at the camera over yellow background

Xerostomia or dry mouth usually occurs due to reduced amount of saliva in your mouth, or from changes in the biochemical composition of saliva. Everyone can experience something like that, especially in cases of anxiety, inconvenience or pressure. But if you have dry mouth very often, this can be uncomfortable and lead to oral health problems or suggest that there is already a more serious medical condition.

The symptom of dry mouth

Saliva does more than keep your mouth moist. It helps digest food, protects teeth from decay and prevents infections by controlling oral bacteria. People with dry mouth usually complain of difficulty chewing, swallowing or even speaking. Diabetics often complain of dry mouth, both type 1 and type 2, but it is a subjective symptom. Not all diabetics have dry mouth. And of course, you may have a dry mouth without diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus and oral health

The causes of dry mouth are not well understood. A meta-analysis examining studies from 1992 to 2013 failed to identify specific causes [1]. And until recently, it was not clear whether the presence of dry mouth was higher in diabetics than in non-diabetics. But in 2016 a meta-analysis found that dry mouth was present in 12.5% ​​–53.5% of diabetics while in the rest of the population it was in 0–30% [2].

Recent evidence suggests that diabetics produce less saliva than most non-diabetics.The exact reasons why diabetes may be associated with dry mouth are unknown, but high blood sugar levels could cause this. Diabetics are prone to dehydration and one of the consequences is dry mouth. In addition, kidney problems, which can be the result of diabetes, can reduce the body’s hydration. Hyperglycemia tends to affect the body in many ways, and one of them may be dry mouth. Research has shown that a peptide found in human saliva (salivatin) plays a role in releasing insulin, which lowers blood sugar. It is believed that this energy can be suppressed by diabetes.

Dry mouth and diabetes treatment

Also, some medications used to treat diabetes can cause dry mouth. For example, many diabetics take medications to control blood pressure, which is known to cause dry mouth. It should be noted that salivary insufficiency can occur as a symptom of several diseases or as a side effect of drugs that interfere with the transmission of impulses to the neurotransmitters of the parasympathetic system.

Dry mouth and treatment

Whatever the cause of dry mouth, saliva is important for maintaining oral health and plays a role in a number of oral and gastrointestinal functions. It is known that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are closely related to periodontitis and fungal infections.

Therefore, if you have decreased salivation and are diabetic, talk to your doctor about the possibility that some medication you are taking – not necessarily for diabetes – may cause you to have a dry mouth. Because the body cannot produce enough saliva without good hydration, make sure you drink enough water.

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  1. Factors related to dry mouth and low salivary flow rates in diabetic elderly: a systematic literature review.
  2. Xerostomia, Hyposalivation, and Salivary Flow in Diabetes Patients.
  3. Update knowledge of dry mouth- A guideline for dentists.
  4. Oral manifestations in type-2 diabetes and related complications.

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