Understanding the Diabetes & Dental Health Connection
Our dental health affects and is impacted by a variety of factors, including conditions pertinent to our overall state of health. 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. We’re going to take a look at the connection between diabetes and dental health throughout this piece to help you understand where you can help yourself and when you will need a dental health professional to provide you with the necessary support.
What is diabetes?
Simply put, diabetes is a chronic health condition that occurs when your body cannot regulate the glucose in your blood; i.e. your blood sugar is too high. There are two types:
- Type 1 Diabetes is when your body stops making insulin, which is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction.
- Type 2 Diabetes is the more common type, and means that a body does not use insulin well and has trouble keeping blood sugar at targeted levels.
What does diabetes have to do with dental health?
If you’re an individual with diabetes and you do not manage your condition or do not manage it well, then you’re at a higher risk for developing dental health problems. Here are some of the ways that poorly managed diabetes can negatively impact your dental health:
- Diabetes can reduce blood supply to the gums. This means that you may be more prone to infection in your gums as well as in the bones that are designed to keep your teeth in place.
- Diabetes can cause dry mouth or exacerbate gum disease. When you’re experiencing high blood sugar levels, it typically means that you’ll produce less saliva. Saliva moistens the inside of your mouth and makes it easier to break up and swallow food. When there is less saliva, then you run the risk of providing space for more tooth-decaying bacteria and greater plaque buildup.
- Diabetes can destroy your tooth enamel & cause decay. Higher blood sugar levels mean more starches and sugars. Starches and sugars mean acidity, and this acidity wears away at your teeth.
- Diabetes can lead to periodontitis. Because diabetes reduces your ability to fight bacteria, we know that it can already cause early gum disease or gingivitis. If this is left untreated, then it can lead to a more serious infection called periodontitis. This can destroy the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth, and may eventually cause your jawbone and your gums to pull away from your teeth. If this happens, then your teeth will inevitably loosen and may even fall out.
How do I ensure that my diabetes doesn’t have a detrimental affect on my dental health?
First and foremost, we recommend making a commitment to managing your diabetes. This means consistently monitoring your blood sugar levels and heeding the advice of your doctor. If you can manage your diabetes, then we can help you to prevent gingivitis and other dental health problems. Aside from informing us of your diabetes condition, our dental health recommendations include:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that contains fluoride to brush in the morning and at night. If you can brush in between meals and snacks, even better. Try to avoid brushing too hard as it can irritate your gums and cause unnecessary bleeding. Remember to change your toothbrush every 3-4 months; if using an electric toothbrush, make sure to change the head as regularly.
- Flossing at least once per day. Don’t get us wrong, we’d be more than happy with you doing so twice per day. Flossing helps to remove plaque between your teeth and from those hard to reach crevices around your mouth.
- Vow to break those bad habits. If you have diabetes and you’re a smoker, QUIT. If you have diabetes and pump your body with sugar, slow down. Items like soda, diet soda and sugar-free drinks can cause major problems for your overall health and your oral hygiene.
- Schedule regular checkups with your dentist. To improve your dental health, we recommend scheduling an appointment to see us every six months. Professional cleanings, X-rays and checkups can help us to help you stay on top of your health status.
If you have diabetes, these are the reasons why dental health care matters. Reach out and contact us at any time with questions or concerns about what may be occurring with your diabetes and your dental health.
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