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Managing Diabetes and Your Dental Health

Oral health and your overall health go hand-in-hand, which is a lesson dental professionals like to share with our patients regularly. We like to make sure you know that your oral health care habits directly affect other aspects of your health, and it’s important for you to understand that many studies show people who do not have good oral health care habits are more likely to develop periodontal disease, which can have an effect on your blood sugar levels. Essentially, living with periodontal disease can cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate in unmanageable levels, which can become a problem if you have diabetes already or develop it as a result. Furthermore, those who have crazy blood sugar levels because of diabetes might find that they are more susceptible to gum disease.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a significant health problem many people give very little thought to until it’s too late. You see, most people think of their oral health in a few manners, and each of them is more on the vanity level. Cavities is the number one health concern most people have with their teeth. Otherwise, most people worry about things like a straight smile, a white smile, and a pretty smile. In fact, many are worried more about whether or not their smile is bright and white than they are about the overall health of their teeth.

Gum disease is a health concern that occurs when plaque is not handled, and it causes your tissues to become inflamed. Plaque is bacteria. Bacteria gets in your mouth when you breathe with your mouth open, when you kiss someone, when you eat, and when you don’t brush, floss, and visit your dentist for regular cleanings. When gum disease is new, it’s called gingivitis. You may notice your gums are red. They seem swollen, and they typically bleed heavily when you brush.

Periodontitis is the advanced form of gum disease. This happens when you have gum disease that you do not treat. This happens when you don’t see your dentist, when you don’t care for your oral health properly, and when you are not that invested in your teeth. When periodontitis occurs, you might notice a few prominent signs.

  • Red gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Pus when you press down on your gums
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in your mouth
  • Moving teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in your bite
  • Changes in the way partial dentures fit in your mouth

Unfortunately, people who live with diabetes are more likely to suffer from gum disease because of the inability to regularly control their blood sugar.

Thrush and Diabetes

If you’re familiar with thrush, it might be because you are a parent who had a newborn who developed this painful white fungal infection in the mouth. This happens commonly in newborns, and it can be transferred to the mother’s breast when breastfeeding. It’s painful, it’s difficult to live with, but it is treatable. It’s caused by a yeast called candida, which looks patchy in the mouth. It might be white or red, or a combination of both. It typically appears on the tongue and on the interior cheeks, and it does burn. It’s painful in babies and adults, who can also get it in their mouths. It’s easy to maintain and avoid if you care for your teeth, but it’s also a problem people with diabetes are more likely to develop than those without diabetes.

Dry Mouth

We’ve discussed dry mouth in another post for you, and we will discuss it quickly again right here. It’s typically caused by medication, but a diabetes diagnosis is another reason people have dry mouth. Dry mouth is a problem because it means you’re not producing enough saliva. While that might not seem like the worst health problem to have, that saliva you’re not producing is not protecting your mouth from the bacteria making itself at home in there. Saliva is beneficial because it helps rinse food, bacteria, and other unwanted items from inside the mouth, which is necessary if you want to maintain optimal oral health.

Saliva is also used to fight the acids that plaque can cause when it builds up in your mouth between dental visits. If you’re not producing enough, your mouth is filling with acids that cause significant damage to your teeth. And to add one more negative to the dry mouth debate, it also allows candida to build up faster and in more prominent numbers, which means you’re more likely to develop thrush. Everything is related in some capacity when you have diabetes and poor oral health.

Diabetes and Recovery Time

Diabetes is dangerous, but it is manageable. However, one of the most dangerous side effects of this disease is the fact that your wounds do not heal as quickly when you have diabetes. This means any dental work you have done is going to take longer to heal. It means more time off work for recovery. It might mean more painful recovery, and it also significantly increases your risk of developing serious infection because the wounds in your mouth take so much longer to recover.

Oral Health Care and Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s so important you learn to take care of your health in so many ways. It might not seem as important to worry about your overall health when you have a diagnosis like this, but we encourage you to remember that your overall health is affected by this diagnosis, and your overall health is also affected by your oral health. Since this diagnosis can have a negative impact on your oral health, it’s so important you learn how to maintain good oral health as a diabetic.

Switching to a soft-bristle brush is one of the first things you should do. Your toothpaste should contain fluoride. Continue to brush two times every day, and always floss at night. You don’t have to floss in the morning, but it’s imperative that you do floss each night.

Continue to see your dentist every six months for your standard cleaning, but do not hesitate to call in between appointments if you have any concerns. Be sure you are communicating with your dentist about your diabetes, too, so that our team of professionals can customize a treatment plan that keeps this in mind.

Call our offices now if you need to schedule an appointment or if you were recently diagnosed with diabetes. We can help you easily learn to navigate your new lifestyle so that you don’t have to worry about one more thing as you learn to navigate the many challenges and changes that being a diabetic brings to your life. Our team of dental professionals is here to help.