November is National Diabetes Month and serves as a reminder to take care of our physical AND dental health. Patients with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk for developing dental problems, especially gum disease. Some ways to protect your teeth from gum disease includes cutting out sugary foods, brushing and flossing each day and visiting the dentist regularly for extensive examinations and cleanings. Find out how you can celebrate National Diabetes Month and keep your teeth decay-free with this guide!
The Various Forms of Diabetes
To celebrate National Diabetes Month, it’s important to know what diabetes is, how it develops and what effects it has on the body. Diabetes is one of the most prolific diseases in the world, and especially in the United States. In summary, diabetes affects how the body processes sugar, or glucose, which can lead to weight loss, fatigue, blurry vision, extreme thirst and/or hunger and slow healing. It can also lead to heart, eye and nerve damage, which can be permanent and irreversible. There are three main forms of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational. Type 1 diabetes occurs in those individuals who do not produce insulin, which is a hormone that’s essential in transferring glucose to cells so that energy can be produced. Most patients with Type 1 diabetes develop it during childhood or early adolescence, but it can occur in adults, as well. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the body doesn’t process insulin properly and ends up becoming resistant to it. Both Type 1 and Type 2 lead to higher blood sugar levels which, when left uncontrolled, wreak havoc throughout the body. Lastly, gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women at various stages of their pregnancies, and it goes away after birth. Women over age 35 and those who have a family history of gestational diabetes are more prone to experience it, but many women still develop it even when they’re completely healthy.
While the physical effects that diabetes causes is well-known, most don’t realize that dental health is affected by this disease, as well. These oral health issues can be expensive and painful to treat, especially if diabetic patients aren’t aware that they should be taking even stricter care of their dental needs. As more awareness is brought to this subject, we hope that diabetic patients everywhere will take the time to establish good oral hygiene practices.
How Diabetes Affects Oral Health
Since diabetes leads to higher blood sugar levels in the body, this weakens the white blood cells in the mouth that work to fight off infection. Without these cells, the mouth is at-risk for developing bacterial infections, ulcers and even oral fungus, like thrush. Thrush thrives off of the sugar that’s found in saliva, so diabetic patients often develop white lesions and bloody areas on the tongue because of this. Speaking of saliva, diabetic patients have higher glucose levels in their saliva, as well, and this lets bacteria grow and spread faster than in those who don’t have diabetes. This means that plaque builds up faster on the teeth and decay forms quicker, leading to tooth decay, gingivitis and gum disease. Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is the most prevalent oral health issue that diabetics face, and it destroys gums, bone and other tissues in your mouth. This can cause teeth to loosen due to gum detachment, which produces bloody, painful gums. Diabetics also face other oral health problems like dry mouth, which causes bad breath and ulcers, along with decreased blood flow to the gums, which impedes healing. All of these dental complications can be costly and painful to fix, plus they put a damper on your self-confidence. By adhering to the following dental tips, you’ll be able to avoid the majority of these problems and keep your teeth and mouth disease-free.
Tips To Keep Teeth Disease-Free
For starters, the first thing that you should do if you have diabetes is to make sure that it is controlled. This means making appointments with your doctor so that you can be prescribed the correct medication and treatment needed to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Secondly, since the increased levels of sugar in your mouth leave you at-risk for cavities and decay, commit to brushing and flossing your teeth each and every day. Brushing and flossing remove the sticky plaque that causes tooth decay in and around your teeth, and this process keeps teeth shiny and clean, as well. Additionally, since you already have higher levels of sugar in your mouth, it’s also a good idea to cut sugary foods and treats that increase said levels. You don’t want to give bacteria more opportunities to grow into plaque, so monitor the portion sizes and consumption frequencies of sugar-filled foods, like cookies, ice cream and soda. Lastly, diabetic patients need regular dental checkups more often than those without it, so make sure you’re meeting with your dentist every six months or sooner. These checkups allow the dentist to examine your teeth for decay, inflammation and even oral cancer, plus you’ll get your teeth deep cleaned to keep plaque at bay for the next few months. Following these guidelines, and any other advice that your dentist gives you, will help you take control of your oral health, even when living with severe diabetes.
Protect Your Teeth With Our Help!
At Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies, we are experienced with helping patients navigate diabetes and their oral health needs, all while maintaining a beautiful, confident smile. Whether you’re due for a dental checkup or need advice about what foods to eat, we can help! Call our office at (970) 223-8425 to schedule a consultation and get your oral health back on track. Even with this life-changing disease, you can still achieve good oral health. Call today to start your journey towards a happier, healthier mouth!