According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report released in 2014, 9.3% of the American population or 29.1 million people had diabetes in 2012 and of that 29.1 million, 8.1 million were undiagnosed. Diabetes continues to be a problem among adults and children as 1.4 million Americans receive a diagnosis every year. For someone with diabetes, taking care of their oral health is even more important as the disease inhibits the mouth’s ability to fight bacteria, and high blood sugar encourages bacteria growth that can lead to gum disease. It’s always good for overall health to take care of oral health, but even more so for someone who has diabetes.
Healthy blood sugar, healthy mouth
When diabetes is properly controlled, and a patient manages their blood sugar well, it’s easier to maintain a healthy mouth. Poorly controlled blood sugar raises the risk of gum disease, thrush, tooth loss and dry mouth. Infections in the mouth can raise blood sugar, which makes controlling diabetes more difficult, so it’s never a good idea to neglect oral health.
Regular dental visits essential
Having diabetes increases the risk of oral infections, and this makes regular dental visits at least twice a year essential. Patients need to inform the dentists that they have diabetes and what medications they’re taking that may affect their oral health. Regular exams, x-rays and cleanings help ensure a healthy mouth and the dentist can advise diabetic patients of the best way to manage their oral health at home.
Avoid plaque buildup
Food residue, saliva and bacteria form sticky plaque immediately after eating, and this releases acids that attack tooth enamel. Without treatment, plaque becomes tartar, which can build up under gum lines and becomes increasingly harmful the longer it remains on the teeth. The bacteria in plaque can lead to inflammation and eventual gum disease, and as high blood sugar complicates gum disease, it’s vital to prevent plaque buildup with proper oral hygiene and dental visits.
Practice daily oral hygiene
Brushing teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day freshens breath and removes plaque that can lead to oral infections, decay and gum disease. Flossing reaches where brushing can’t, between the teeth, but if a patient struggles with normal floss, the dentist can recommend interdental flossers.
Maintain dentures properly
Denture wearers with diabetes need to inform the dentist immediately about any changes in the fit of the dentures. Poorly maintained dentures or loos dentures can cause sores, gum irritation and infections that can complicate diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of developing fungal infections such as thrush that can take a long time to heal. Removing and cleaning dentures daily reduces the risk of oral health issues.
Quit tobacco use
Using any tobacco including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, pipes and cigars are bad for oral and overall health. A patient with diabetes who uses tobacco products increases their risk of developing gum disease. Tobacco use can lead to potential gum tissue damage, receding gums, tissue loss, bone loss and tooth loss. Quitting tobacco is a healthy choice for everyone and even more so for diabetes sufferers.
Oral surgery considerations
Patients with diabetes need to inform their dentist they have the disease. Properly controlled blood sugar means a reduced risk of infection and faster healing, but if blood sugar is too high or not maintained properly, patients need to wait until they have a healthier blood sugar to undergo any oral surgery.
The same way a patient promotes a healthy mouth also helps manage diabetes. By eating a healthy diet, not using tobacco products, taking diabetes medications as prescribed and seeing the dentist regularly, a patient with diabetes improves their oral and overall health and protects their teeth and gums. At Chianese Dental, we’re committed to the great oral health of all our patients.