November may be synonymous with Thanksgiving for many people, but it’s also National Diabetes Month. This important awareness campaign provides an opportunity for communities across the country to team up and bring attention to diabetes. Diabetes affects around 37 million Americans, including adults and young people, and occurs when your blood glucose (or blood sugar) is too high. Our oral health affects and is impacted by a variety of factors, including conditions pertinent to our overall state of health, including diabetes. However, even though there may be added layers of complication when it comes to managing everything occurring within your body, you may still have a level of control in most cases. This may begin with how you address and maintain your oral hygiene routine. Remember, part of your health care team includes your dentist!
Individuals living with diabetes are more prone to cavities as well as to infections of the gums and bones, which keep your teeth in place. This is because diabetes lowers the blood supply to those areas. If you’re not taking care of your oral health, then aging as a factor on its own can increase dental problems; so if you’re a diabetic over age 50, your risk may be even greater. If you notice sore or bleeding gums, constantly get infections and have chronic bad breath, you may have diabetes and dental issues that need treatment.
Oral Conditions Commonly Found in Diabetics
Dry Mouth: In addition to age, diabetes can also cause dry mouth, and particularly in women. This is because women are vulnerable to lower saliva levels, which causes dry mouth, whereas healthy saliva levels secrete enzymes that attack harmful oral bacteria.
Gingivitis: Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease that arises as oral bacteria cause your gums to bleed, redden and feel sore. Oral bacteria thrives on sugar, which creates oral acids that damage your teeth and tooth enamel. If you don’t manage your diabetes, your saliva will contain higher levels of sugar that will mix with excess food particles and turn into dental plaque. It’s important to do your part to maintain healthy gums.
Oral infections: Fungal yeast infections, referred to as “thrush”, often appear as white or red patches in the mouth for people with diabetes. What happens? Yeast feeds off of excess sugar in your saliva and is more prevalent in people who wear loose-fitting dentures and smoke.
Periodontitis: If you leave gingivitis untreated, it will eventually worsen and likely result in periodontitis, a severe version of gum disease wearing down bone density and oral tissues that hold your teeth in place. Unless you brush and floss diligently, gum pockets will form, a condition where your gums pull away from your teeth. Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis cannot be reversed, only managed. We are here to answer any questions you may have about periodontal treatment.
In addition to the above conditions, people with diabetes may notice that wounds take longer to heal. When wounds aren’t healing quickly, it can increase your risk of infection. This is common in people as they age, as well as in diabetics. It also increases your risk of infection.
Tips To Help Promote Your Oral Health
- Manage your blood sugar as recommended by your doctor with diet and exercise.
- Practice good daily oral hygiene care, which includes using a soft-bristled toothbrush, flossing twice a day and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Protect the enamel on your teeth by waiting half an hour before brushing to dilute oral acids.
- If you use dentures, remove and clean them nightly.
- If you smoke cigarettes, now is the time to stop.
- Visit us for regular professional dental cleanings every six months, or as recommended by your dentist.
The good news is diabetes-friendly foods are also tooth-friendly foods. Make sure you avoid foods and beverages that can damage your teeth. There are plenty of foods that help to brighten your tooth enamel, your smile, and that holiday glow!
This Thanksgiving, enjoy your feast while also remaining mindful of your oral health. If you have diabetes, we hope this information puts you on the path to maintaining better oral health. As always, contact us with any oral health questions, to schedule your next dental visit, or to speak with a member of our dental team!