There are 29.1 million people in the US living with diabetes – that’s 9.3% of the population! Nearly 8.1 million people living with diabetes are unaware that they are diabetic. Unfortunately, patients who suffer from diabetes are at greater risk for gum disease and other oral health problems.
The bacteria that cause gum disease are present in all mouths, but a diabetic patient experiences a different inflammatory response to these bacteria. If you are diabetic (and especially if you aren’t meeting your targets), your inflammatory response may be more intense and could result in the loss of supportive tissue for your teeth which could, in turn, lead to loose teeth.
Dry mouth can also be common in patients with diabetes. It is not clear whether dry mouth is a complication of diabetes or a side effect of medications, but no matter the cause, a lack of saliva makes it harder to wash away food particles, sugar, acids, and bacteria. Patients with symptoms of dry mouth need to take special care to avoid cavities and gum disease.
There are ways to reduce the risks diabetes poses to your oral health. Managing your diabetes and visiting your dentist regularly are important, and there are daily steps you can take to maintain your healthy smile:
Floss every day. Dry mouth can contribute to the accumulation of plaque and food particles and lead to cavities. Without flossing, these particles collect at the gum line and set the stage for tooth decay and gum disease. If you don’t like flossing with traditional, messy floss, try a floss pick like those made by Dentek.
Brush your teeth twice daily. The American Dental Association recommends that patients brush their teeth twice daily for a full two minutes. Use a fluoride toothpaste, a soft bristle toothbrush, and remember not to brush too hard – you can damage the enamel of your teeth.
Visit your dentist every 6 months. In some cases, your dentist may recommend cleanings more often, and it is absolutely essential that you keep up with your appointments. Tooth decay doesn’t happen all at once, which is why getting regular checkups is so important: your dentist can monitor your mouth and help you treat emerging issues before they become major problems. Your dentist may recommend special mouth rinses to control symptoms such as dry mouth. Be sure to communicate with your dentist about changes in your health or medications so that your dentist can understand changes that may have occurred in your mouth.
Communicate with your dentist. Be up front about your diabetes with your dentist and be honest about how well you are meeting your targets. Your dentist needs this information to help you make the right treatment decisions. Be proactive and ask questions. “How do my gums look?” “Did you notice a lot of bleeding?” “Is there anything more I should be doing?” These questions can be useful to any patient, and may even lead to the discovery of emerging diabetes in a patient who doesn’t yet know they are diabetic.
You can maintain a healthy smile and improve your dental health with diabetes – let us help you find a balance that is worth smiling about!