Diabetes and oral care. What you need to know.
What can happen if you suffer from diabetes?
Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. All food you eat is turned to sugar and used for energy. In Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. Both cases result in high blood sugar levels, which can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body.
So what does that mean for your oral care and what can you do about it? Well, first and foremost, you need to know, what happens in your mouth if you suffer from diabetes.
If diabetes is left untreated, it can take a toll on your mouth.
You may have less saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry. Because saliva protects your teeth, you’re also at a higher risk of cavities. Gums may become inflamed and bleed often or you may have problems tasting food.
It may take longer for your wounds to heal or you may be susceptible to infections inside of your mouth. For children with diabetes, teeth may erupt at an age earlier than is typical.
Why people with diabetes are more prone to gum disease?
The terrible truth is each of us has more tiny bacteria living in our mouth at this very moment than there are people on this planet. Make them feel at home in your gums and you can end up with periodontal disease. This chronic disease can destroy your gums, all the tissues holding your teeth and even your bones.
Periodontal disease affects nearly 22% of those diagnosed with diabetes. Especially with increasing age, poor blood sugar control increases the risk of gum problems. As with all infections, serious gum disease may cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetes harder to control because you are more susceptible to infections and less able to fight the bacteria invading the gums.
A vicious circle, eh?
How can your dentist help you fight diabetes?
It is very important to visit your dentist regularly. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Practicing good oral hygiene is key.
And there are also a few things you can do yourself:
- Control your blood sugar levels. Use your diabetes-related medications as directed. Changing to a healthier diet and even exercising more can also help.
- Avoid smoking.
- If you wear any type of denture, clean it each day.
- Make sure to brush twice a day with a soft brush and clean between your teeth daily.
- See your dentist for regular checkups.