5 Tips for Controlling Diabetes and Oral Health
Nearly 26 million Americans have
diabetes, a chronic disease in which the body’s blood sugar levels remain
elevated. In addition to health problems such as heart disease and kidney failure,
this population faces increased risk for oral health problems.
The American Dental Association lists the most common oral health problems associated with diabetes as follows:
- Tooth decay
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Salivary gland dysfunction
- Fungal infections
- Lichen planus and lichenoid reactions (inflammatory skin disease)
- Infection and delayed healing
- Taste impairment
If you or someone in your family has diabetes, consider these tips to prevent complications to your overall and oral health:
1. Manage your diabetes
American Diabetes Association considers controlling blood glucose levels
the first and foremost step in preventing oral health problems associated with diabetes.
It helps prevent gum disease, thrush, and fungal infection, as well as prevent and
relieve diabetes-related dry mouth.
2. Visit the dentist
Schedule regular checkups and professional cleanings—every six months. Doing so
not only helps keep your mouth clean and healthy, it allows your dentist to look
for changes and early signs of problems. Diabetes patients may require more frequent
dental visits. Talk to your dentist about how often you should return for cleanings
Additionally, be sure to notify your dentist that you have diabetes. Inform him
or her of any changes to your condition, medications you are taking, and concerns
and questions you have. This information is important to preventive care, treatment
planning, and decisions regarding dental work.
3. Brush and floss vigilantly
As stated above, taking care of your teeth helps keep diabetes under control just
as keeping your diabetes under control helps prevent oral health complications.
It is especially important people with diabetes to
brush at least twice daily and floss at least once daily to remove plaque
and germs. If your teeth and gums are sensitive, choose a brush with soft bristles.
Talk to your dentist about the best toothbrush options for you.
4. Get to know your mouth
Regularly examine your gums, gum line, tongue, lips, and insides of your cheeks
for sores, rashes, and changes to the tissue. If you notice anything unusual, make
an appointment to see your dentist. Some conditions, such as gingivitis, may be
painless until they become serious.
The American Diabetes Association lists the following as possible
signs of gingivitis and/or serious gum disease:
- Bleeding and red, swollen, or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Pus between the teeth and gums (when you press on the gums)
- Bad breath
- Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other
- Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures or bridges
5. Stop smoking—and don’t start
Smoking is one of the most significant factors in the development of gum disease
and it lowers the chances for successful treatment, according to the
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. It may be responsible
as much as 75 percent of periodontal disease in adults. The risk increases
in those with diabetes. Additionally, smoking increases the risk of other diabetes
complications. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation options. And, if you
don’t smoke, don’t start!
The relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes is considered a two-way
street, according to the
American Academy of Periodontology. Those with diabetes are at higher risk
for developing periodontal disease due to depleted white blood cells, which defend
our bodies against infection, according to the
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. Likewise, periodontal disease
can complicate diabetes. The AAP explains that because severe periodontal disease
can increase blood sugar, it puts diabetics at higher risk for complications. Treating
gum disease in people with diabetes can help blood sugar control, according to the American Dental Association.
Managing your diabetes, overall health, and oral health means, in addition to maintaining
a healthy lifestyle, working with both your doctor and dentist to keep your condition