It may not seem like diabetes and oral health should be connected, but they are. People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing some oral health problems, including gum disease (gingivitis) and periodontal disease (infection of the structures around the teeth; the root, the periodontal ligament and the bone). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 million adults in the United States are now living with diabetes or prediabetes. Diabetes has a negative impact on multiple parts of the body, including your mouth.
The Link Between Diabetes and Oral Health
The link between diabetes and oral health (gingivitis) is not completely understood, but inflammation, and immune function are definitely factors. Diabetics generally have more inflammation caused by the disease and they are more susceptible to contracting infections. Because diabetics have more difficulty controlling blood sugars, bacteria is more present, causing plaque to form, which leads to gum disease.
If untreated, gum disease can lead to periodontitis, or an erosion of the bone, which causes loose teeth and damage to the gums. People with uncontrolled diabetes are especially at risk. They tend to get periodontal disease more often than the average person or those who keep their diabetes under control.
Diagnosing Periodontal Disease
Dr. Ashley Niles, of Niles Family Dentistry is proficient in caring for patients with periodontal disease. To diagnose patients with this condition, she conducts a thorough examination of the the soft tissues of your mouth and your teeth in order to provide an accurate treatment plan for you. If periodontitis is diagnosed, it should be managed at least every six months or more, depending on your individual condition.
Effective periodontal treatment is particularly important in people with diabetes. Diabetes affects every part of your body, not just your teeth, but if diabetes is left untreated, it can cause many problems in your mouth. The following are a few indicators that your diabetes is affecting your mouth, teeth and gums:
- Gums may become inflamed and bleed when you brush your teeth (gingivitis).
- Your mouth might feel dry because diabetes may cause you to produce less saliva. Saliva protects your teeth and when you are producing less saliva it puts you at a higher risk for cavities. To avoid dry mouth, you can chew sugar-free gum, use a mouth gel or eat some sugar-free candy to stimulate saliva production. If these don’t help, talk to your dentist for recommendations.
- When your blood sugar levels are high, the amount of sugar in your saliva is also high, which creates an ideal environment for plaque to grow.
- You may have more infections inside of your mouth due to the bacteria present and be subject to slower healing due to diabetes.
Take the time to talk to your dentist about your diabetes and oral health status. The extra time you take now could make all the difference for your currrent and future health.
Your Doctor and Dentist Should Work Together
Communicate with your dentist and if possible, have your doctor and dentist work together to stay up-to-date regarding your diabetesand oral health. Professional care and dedicated self-care will keep your smile healthy and may potentially slow the progression of diabetes. Communication is an important element of a successful dental plan. Be sure to ask your dentist any questions that worry you and continuously work together so that you can have the healthiest mouth possible.
Keep Your Diabetes Under Control
Following are some tips from WebMD you can use to keep your diabetes under control AND preserve those pearly whites! The good news is that most of these tips apply to everyone, whether you have diabetes or not!
- Keep blood sugar levels under control – This will help your body fight any bacterial or fungal infections.
- Spot check your sugar levels – vary the times each day when you check your blood sugar.
- Count carbohydrates; they affect your blood glucose more than any other nutrients. Avoid foods with added sugars.
- Exercise daily; it lowers blood sugar.
- Know your numbers – blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.
- Stop smoking. Your doctor may be able to recommend a stop smoking program.
- Avoid acidic drinks like soda, energy drinks and water with lemon. These can erode the enamel of your teeth, which can lead to decay.
- Make sure to brush your teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush at least twice a day.
- Gently brush your tongue to get rid of bacteria.
- Floss your teeth daily.
- Rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking something between meals.
- Have regular check-ups with your dentist every six months, or more often if recommended for deep cleanings.
Call for a Diabetes and Oral Health Consultation
If you are concerned about the effects of diabetes and oral health, make an appointment to see Dr. Niles, According to the Endocrine Website, dental treatments can lower your A1c: “If you’re trying to manage your blood sugar, and you have gum disease, a trip to the dentist appears likely to reduce your risk of diabetes and lower your hemoglobin A1c levels.”
Taking charge of your physical and oral health is easy to say, and maybe not so easy to do, but as with any self-care plan, it will be worth it to get your diabetes under control! Diabetes is a condition that greatly affects your overall health and can have devastating effects on your oral health.
Niles Family Dentistry, located at 136 2nd Ave., Suite 101 in Niwot, is easily accessible to anyone living in Longmont, Boulder, or other areas of the Front Range in Northern Colorado. Call our office today at (720) 744-0001 to get a jump start on your New Year’s Resolutions in caring for your oral and physical health.