Diabetes and oral health are very closely linked. While good dental health should be practiced by everyone, diabetics have even more reason to ensure that their teeth and gums are in the best possible condition. People with diabetes are more prone to gum disease and dry mouth. In addition, managing blood sugars can be more difficult when infection is present in the mouth.
Dental Concerns for Diabetics
Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the gums and surrounding bones beneath the gum line. The gums can recede, bleed, swell, or emit pus. Pockets beneath the gum line can form, becoming a home to bacteria. Infections that form within the gums are known as gingivitis, which can cause increased sensitivity, loose teeth, and bad breath.
Diabetics have the most to be concerned about with periodontal disease and gingivitis. When infection is present in the mouth, blood sugars can be difficult to control. Infection often causes blood glucose to spike to dangerously high levels, creating a need for more insulin throughout the day.
In addition, poor diabetes management can cause an increase in your chances for developing periodontal disease. Diabetics naturally have more sugar content in their mouth, which provides nourishment for any oral bacteria. Plaque buildup and infections can happen more quickly, more frequently, and with more damage when diabetes is not properly managed.
Once a diabetic has an infection of their teeth or gums, it can be much more difficult to treat. Diabetics have a more difficult time healing from cuts, infections, or illnesses, and their teeth and gums are no exception. Diabetics should see their dentists immediately for the best course of action to treat the cause of the infection.
Dry mouth is also very common in people with diabetes. There is typically less saliva in the mouth of diabetics, which allows food particles to remain in the mouth longer. This increases the amount of plaque produced by oral bacteria, and can increase the diabetic's chances of periodontal disease.
Dental Care for Diabetics
Prevention is the primary step in diabetes dental care. Diabetics should brush four times per day, for at least three minutes. Use fluoride toothpaste, and look for brands designed for people with dry mouth, if necessary. They should floss regularly to remove food particles from difficult to reach areas of the mouth. Ask your dentist if you should use a mouthwash that contains alcohol, or is alcohol free, since alcohol can increase the effects of dry mouth.
Diabetics should also visit their dentist regularly, at least twice a year, or as the dentist recommends. They should inform their dentist of any unusual symptoms they are experiencing with their teeth and gums, to find out the appropriate treatment. Also, diabetics should discuss their insulin regimen with their dentist, and let them know the symptoms of high and low blood sugars, in case the situation arises.
Optimal Diabetes and Dental Management
Good diabetes control and dental health go hand in hand. These two healthy practices ensure that diabetics need not spend a lifetime of unnecessarily spiking blood sugars and painful, deteriorating teeth. Diabetics should work closely with their dentist to create a healthy dental regimen that will allow them the best possible health now and in the future.
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