If you are diabetic, or know someone who is, you know how debilitating diabetes is for the body Not only is it a stress on bodily organs, including eyes, nerves, kidneys and heart, but the disease can also cause oral health issues. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and is a great time to shine an important light on how diabetes and oral health are connected so that diabetics can have the healthiest smile possible!
What is the connection?
People who have diabetes have a greater chance of developing periodontal (gum) disease, which is an infection of the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to pain, chronic bad breath, chewing difficulties, and even tooth loss. Additionally, diabetes can slow down healing so management and treatment of periodontal disease could take longer.
According to the American Dental Association, periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22% of those diagnosed. The main reason diabetic patients have a higher risk for gum problems is because of poor blood sugar control. As with all infections, serious gum disease could cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetes harder to control because you are more susceptible to infections and are less able to fight the bacteria invading the gums.
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
Do your gums bleed when you brush or floss? Do you avoid certain foods because it’s difficult to chew them? Signs and symptoms of gum disease vary person to person, but below are some of the most common “red flags” that you might notice and that your dental team would look for:
• Persistent bad breath
• Red or swollen gums
• Gums that are tender to the touch or bleed when brushed
• Difficulty chewing
• Loose and/or sensitive teeth
• Receding gums or teeth that appear longer than they used to be
Tips for managing oral care
Good blood glucose control is the best way to control, prevent and combat oral health issues. Here are a few ways to help your smile stay as healthy as possible:
• Manage your blood sugar levels, and possibly incorporate a healthier diet and exercise
• Brush twice a day and floss regularly
• Visit your dentist for regularly scheduled cleaning, X-rays and exams, and make sure your dentist is aware you have diabetes
• Communicate with your hygienist and dentist if you notice any changes in your mouth, including sore gums, lack of saliva, dentures not fitting correctly, etc.
• Quit smoking! Not only is it bad for you, smoking makes gum disease worse
Your dental team is here to help!
Maintaining regular preventative dental visits can not only improve your oral health, but also your overall health. We know that it’s difficult to manage all types of diabetes, so are committed to helping you make small changes to ensure your smile stays as healthy as possible. Maybe it’s switching your toothbrush to an electric toothbrush, or incorporating a new fluoride-rich toothpaste for your evening brushes, or giving you helpful tips for quitting smoking, just know that we are here to help!