At first, it may seem that brushing and flossing have nothing to do with diabetes. But actually, diabetes and high blood sugar can take a toll on your entire body — and your teeth and gums are no exception. The good news is that prevention is in your hands. Learn how to take care of your teeth and gums if you have diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that, primarily, affects your body’s ability to process sugar. The result is high blood sugar that can affect the whole body – your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body. Your mouth is unfortunately no exception! Diabetes also impairs white blood cells, which are the body’s main defense against bacterial infections, lowers your immunity and slows the healing process. The infections that can occur in the mouth are also more difficult to fight.
Therefore, proper dental care is extremely important for people with diabetes because they face a higher risk of oral health problems. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes. Therefore it is very important to point out the most common oral health problems associated with diabetes:
- Gum disease. As already mentioned, diabetes reduces our ability to fight bacteria. So it is no wonder that because of lowered resistance and a longer healing process, gum inflammation – gingivitis and periodontitis are more frequent and more severe among patients with diabetes.
- Tooth decay (cavities). We all know that our mouth naturally contains many, many types of bacteria. When sugars from food and beverages come in contact with these bacteria, plaque forms on our teeth. Plaque contains acids that attack the teeth enamel, which leads to cavities. And now we come to diabetes – the higher your blood sugar level, the greater the level of sugars in your mouth, which unfortunately means more acid wearing away at your teeth.
- Fungal infections. Since diabetes does damage to your immune system, you may be more susceptible to developing fungal infections. Some of the symptoms are difficulty swallowing and painful sores. A fungal infection is a case for your dentist. Visit him as soon as possible.
- Oral tissue infection and delayed healing. Patients with diabetes do not heal quickly after oral surgery. That is why they should keep their blood sugar levels under control before, during and after surgery, in order to help the healing process.
- Dry mouth. Sometimes uncontrolled diabetes decreases saliva flow, which of course results in dry mouth. Dry mouth definitely is an issue because if not controlled, it can lead to ulcers, soreness, infections, and tooth decay.
- Thrush. If you are a diabetic and frequently take antibiotics to fight various infections, then you are especially prone to developing a fungal infection of the mouth and tongue. Thrush causes burning mouth and/or tongue.
Even though it might seem discouraging, there are also solutions and tips that can help prevent damage to your teeth and gums. Needless to say, monitor your blood sugar level. Equally important is take dental care seriously:
Brush your teeth at least twice a day – in the morning, before you go to bed and, ideally, after every meal and snack. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brush gently, in order not to irritate your gums.
Floss at least once a day to remove plaque between your teeth. Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. Let your dentist know you have diabetes. It is also not bad to remind him or her about your condition, just to be sure. When we talk about gum disease, a stitch in time saves nine! Look for early signs of gum disease – redness, swelling and bleeding gums — and report them to your dentist. If there are any other signs and symptoms, such as dry mouth, loose teeth or mouth pain, mention them, too. It would also be great if you didn’t smoke because smoking increases the risk of serious diabetes complications, including gum disease.
Diabetes is a serious issue and managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment. Among other things, it includes adequate dental care. Take care of your teeth and gums regularly and you can be sure that all the efforts will be rewarded with a pleasant, pain-free lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.