If you are one of the 26 million adults living with diabetes, you know how sensitive your high blood sugar makes you to other conditions, especially dental problems. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) describes managing diabetes and dental problems as a two-way endeavor: High blood sugar levels can put you at risk of complications such as gum disease, and serious cases left untreated can cause diabetes to worsen.
By engaging dental problems early, your blood sugar levels can improve, reinforcing your general health in the long term.
Dental Risks with Diabetes
According to the ADA, diabetics are two to five times more likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease than someone without diabetes. If your glucose levels are not controlled while fighting periodontal disease, it can progress more rapidly toward tooth loss. You may also experience dry mouth, due to certain medications or as an outcome of high blood sugar. Without sufficient saliva to neutralize the acids in your mouth, the remaining bacteria are free to produce tooth decay.
Thrush, a fungal infection, is another common oral complication that can cause mouth sores and ulcers, and makes wearing dentures uncomfortable. But don't worry, there's plenty you can do to avoid these risks and defend a healthy mouth.
Managing Your Dental Health
Impeccable oral hygiene is always necessary for good dental health. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and floss at least once a day. Ask your dentist about Colgate® PerioGuard®, a prescription strength antibacterial rinse that fights gingivitis and helps heal swollen gums. If dry mouth is a problem for you, consider saliva substitutes or sugarless gum. And regular dental appointments are obviously important. Be sure to keep your dentist up to date on all of your medications.
Managing Your Diabetes
Staying on top of your diabetes means keeping your blood sugar at levels recommended by your doctor. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) advocates lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active. Eat nutritious high fiber foods, take your medications, and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy readings. If you're a smoker, the NDEP suggests getting help from your health team on how to quit.
Dental Cleaning and Screening for Diabetes
Not everyone with diabetes was born with the condition, and one of the ways it can develop is through poor oral hygiene.
Diabetes Forecast Magazine recently reported that early signs of gum disease are a possible indication of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, based on a study published in the Journal of Dental Research. Researchers at Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine found that dentists could identify as much as 73 percent of undiagnosed diabetes cases because of the presence of gum disease.
Diabetes can have serious health and dental consequences, but it doesn't have to. The key is to control your blood glucose levels and keep your teeth and mouth healthy. By understanding the diabetes-oral health connection, you can get help prevent further complications.