As diabetics know, your blood sugar levels can take a toll on your entire body; this includes your teeth and gums. However, there is good news. You can take prevention steps and learn what you are up against in order to take charge of your dental health.
Cavities, Gingivitis, and Periodontitis
It doesn’t matter whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Either way, managing your blood sugar is key. The higher your blood sugar is, the greater your risk is of:
- Cavities: Your mouth naturally contains several types of bacteria. When the starches and sugars in foods interact with that bacteria, that sticky film we know as plaque forms on your teeth. The plaque acid attacks the enamel and dentin of your teeth. This is what causes cavities. The higher your blood sugar is, the more acid there will be to wear away your teeth.
- Gingivitis: Also known as early gum disease, gingivitis hinders your ability to fight bacteria. If plaque is not removed with regular brushing and flossing, it will get hard under your gum line into what we know as tartar. The longer that tartar and plaque are on your teeth, the more they irritate the gums at the base of your teeth. In time, your gums will be swollen and bleed vary easily. This is known as gingivitis.
- Periodontitis: Also known as advanced gum disease, it can destroy the soft tissue and the supporting bones of your teeth. Your teeth could possibly become loose and fall out. Periodontitis tends to be more severe in diabetic patients because the disease lowers the ability of the patient to resist infection and they are slow to heal. An infection like periodontitis can also cause your blood sugar levels to go up, which can make your diabetes more difficult to manage. Prevention and treatment of periodontitis can help improve control of your blood sugar.
Proper Dental Care
There are several steps you can take to help prevent damage to your teeth and gums by taking diabetes and dental care seriously:
- Commit to managing your diabetes: Monitor your blood sugar and follow the advice of your doctor. The better controlled your blood sugar is, the less likely you are to develop dental issues in the future.
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day: Use a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. Avoid harsh scrubbing which can irritate your gums. You might want to consider an electric toothbrush, especially if you have arthritis or other issues that make it harder to brush well. You should get a new toothbrush every three months.
- Floss your teeth once per day: This will help remove plaque between your teeth and under the gum line. If you have a difficult time with floss, try using the “Glide” floss.
- Schedule regular visits to your dentist: See your dentist at least every 6 months for cleanings and checkups. Make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes, and that they have the contact information of the physician who helps you manage your diabetes.
- Watch for early signs of gum disease: Report any signs you see such as redness, swelling, and bleeding gums. Mention any other signs such as a dry mouth, loose teeth, or pain in your mouth.
- Absolutely do not smoke: Smoking increases diabetes complications and gum disease.
Managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment that includes properly caring for your teeth. At Simply Smiles Dentistry, we can show you how to properly care for your teeth and guide you to have a happy, healthy smile that will last for a lifetime.
Until next time…Keep on Smiling!