Diabetes is “a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine.” And the numbers of people with diabetes are dramatically increasing. In the last ten years, the cases of people living with this serious condition jumped by almost fifty percent. More than thirty million Americans and more than 422 million people worldwide are afflicted with diabetes. It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, research shows you may be more predisposed to certain types of gum and teeth disease as well. The fact that you are diabetic isn’t the cause of these oral health issues, but they are easier to get because of your diabetic condition. And often, diabetes makes oral health issues worse. As a diabetic, you can and should take good care of your teeth and gums. It just takes a little more work.
4 Dental Health Concerns for Patients with Diabetes
The following dental concerns are not issues related to patients with diabetes only. But diabetic dental patients need to be extra-vigilant in the care of their teeth because of them.
Saliva actually plays a very important role in good dental health.
- It aids in your digestion of food by helping you move food around your mouth and into your body
- And it cleanses your mouth by washing away germs and regulating acids
As a dental patient with diabetes, have you noticed that your mouth is drier? Do your lips crack often? Is swallowing food sometimes unpleasant? This is because your body is producing less saliva now. Beyond general discomfort, an inadequate production of saliva can lead to more serious problems.
If you are dealing with symptoms of dry mouth, there are things you can do that will help.
- Sip water throughout the day
- Chew sugarless gum to promote saliva
- Because dry mouth encourages decay, chew gum made with xylitol. Xylitol and the natural sugar found in fruit work great to curb cavity-causing bacteria
- Never use a mouthwash with alcohol in it. There are alcohol-free mouthwashes and mouthwashes made specifically for dry mouth available for purchase
- Apply moisturizers to your lips
If you allow germs and acids in your mouth to build up, your gums become irritated. Then, a mild form of gum disease called gingivitis develops. Irritation, redness, and swelling of gums are symptoms of this disease. But gingivitis can cause the loss of gum tissue. The loss of gum tissue is irreversible.
Preventative measures to fight against gingivitis can be taken.
Maintain a proper blood glucose level. Research has found that dental patients with Type 1 diabetes with poor control of their glycemic levels have the highest rate of gingivitis.
Brush your teeth properly at least twice a day:
- Use a soft toothbrush
- Apply small, circular motions to the surface of the teeth
- Angle the brush towards the gum but don’t push too hard
- Purchase and use anti-gingivitis rinses to help control bacterial growth
As a diabetic, your body produces high levels of glucose. And saliva with a high level of glucose creates the perfect environment for yeast infections to grow. If yeast infections like Thrush go untreated, they can spread to your esophagus and other parts of your body, too.
Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease (gingivitis to a greater degree). This disease causes the loss of gum tissue and can destroy the bones that support your teeth. One study found that Type 1 diabetics were more likely to develop periodontitis five times more than those who were not.
Once again, proper control of your blood glucose level and good dental hygiene are your best forms of prevention for infections. And it’s uber important for you as a diabetic to take particularly good care of your teeth and gums to prevent oral infections. Because once diabetics get an infection, research shows the infection is worse and slower to heal. Infections in those with diabetes create a vicious cycle. They cause your blood sugar to rise which promotes even more bacterial and fungal growth.
Since harmful bacteria tend to grow in the mouth much easier for those with diabetes, the formation of cavities is more of a concern. Bacteria when combined with sugars in your mouth, forms a film of soft, sticky plaque. Over time, plaque can turn into tartar that cements to your teeth. And tartar is hard to remove with normal brushing.
Prevent plaque buildup in the first place, diabetic or not. Floss at least once a day to help prevent plaque buildup. Brushing without flossing can’t get rid of food particles that get trapped between your teeth.
The Importance of Visiting Our Dental Office Regularly
If he doesn’t already know, let Dr. Davis know that you have diabetes. Schedule regular checkups and dental cleanings with our office every six months. Dr. Davis may want to see you more often than every six months, but he’ll let you know. And when you visit our office, bring your glucometer with you.
Do you have diabetes? If so, take preventative measures. Start with proper brushing at least twice a day and flossing once each day. And visit our Davis Dental at least twice a year. Call Davis Dental at (307) 634-3488 to schedule your dental checkups today.
Quality Dental Care for Your Whole Family
3116 Acacia Drive
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm