If you’re living with diabetes you probably already know that failing to manage your condition can affect many of your body’s major organs and bodily systems including your eyes, kidneys, heart and nerves. But many people with diabetes may not be aware of how much impact diabetes can have on their oral health.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk for the following oral health problems:
- Plaque / Tartar. Uncontrolled diabetes causes high glucose levels in your saliva, which helps harmful bacteria grow. The bacteria combine with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque on and around the teeth. Plaque can also come from eating foods high in sugars or starches. Plaque that is not removed hardens over time into tartar and collects above your gum line. Tartar makes it more difficult to brush and clean between your teeth.
- Gingivitis. Gingivitis is characterized by gums that are red, swollen and bleed easily. Gingivitis is often caused by a buildup of plaque under the gum line.
- Dry mouth. Diabetes may cause you to produce less saliva, leading to dry mouth.
- Thrush. The combination of dry mouth and increased glucose in the saliva may lead to a fungal infection called thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth.
- Periodontitis. Untreated gingivitis can develop into a type of gum disease called periodontitis. In periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces, called pockets that become infected over time. If not addressed, periodontitis weakens or destroys the structures that hold your teeth in place, resulting in tooth loss.
As with any risk, the key to lowering your diabetes-related oral health risks is prevention. By taking control of both your diabetes and your oral health practices, you can beat the odds and keep your mouth looking and feeling healthy. The following activities are essential:
Control your blood glucose.
Good blood glucose control is key to controlling and preventing mouth problems associated with diabetes. People who don’t control their blood glucose get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled.
Brush and floss daily
If you have diabetes, make sure you take care of your mouth by brushing and flossing daily, and especially after meals. Be sure to check your mouth regularly for any problems like tender or bleeding gums, mouth dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth.
Visit your dentist regularly. Make sure your dentist knows that you have diabetes.
Have regular dental checkups and tell your dentist about any problems you may have noticed with your mouth. Your dentist should already be aware of your diabetes from your medical record, but it doesn’t hurt to remind them during your visit.
Smoking and diabetes are a bad combination for maintaining good oral health. Quitting smoking not only reduces your risk for oral health problems like tooth discoloration, bad breath, and gum disease; it also lowers your risk for diabetes complications like stroke, nerve damage, and kidney disease.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to have your teeth and gums checked regularly. Schedule your next checkup with us today!