Most people with diabetes understand that the disease can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, and heart. However, these patients may be surprised to learn that it also poses risks to oral health. Those with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease, an infection of the gums that can lead to tooth decay and tooth loss, making dental care for diabetics of utmost importance. Fortunately, restorative dentistry treatments can help improve oral health and restore dental function for those who have experienced dental damage. Although there are treatments available for restoring oral health, preventing damage to begin with is preferable. This can be accomplished by practicing good oral hygiene and keeping diabetes under control. Learn about the importance of proper dental care for diabetics in this overview from Chicago, IL dentist Kenneth W. Coffey.
Diabetes and Oral Health
Diabetes increases the risk of many serious oral health issues, making proper dental care vital for diabetics. Oral health problems that may affect diabetics include:
- Gum disease: Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums that can spread to the jawbone, causing tooth decay and tooth loss. Gum disease can also cause gum recession, allowing bacteria to reach below the gum line, leaving the roots of the teeth vulnerable to decay. Those with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease and those with uncontrolled diabetes are more likely to suffer from severe gum disease.
- Dry mouth: Dry mouth, a condition marked by insufficient saliva production, is often a symptom of diabetes. Saliva is important to oral health because it washes away food remnants, reduces acids in the mouth, and restores minerals to the teeth. When insufficient saliva is produced, the mouth is vulnerable to many health issues like ulcers, gum disease, and tooth decay.
- Tooth decay: Tooth decay is caused by the acids emitted by bacteria that feed on the plaque and tartar in our mouths. Tooth decay is a common problem for diabetics, especially since so many suffer from a combination of dry mouth and gum disease.
- Tooth loss: Unfortunately, diabetes increases the risk of the aforementioned oral health issues, all of which can lead to tooth loss.
Dental Care Tips for Diabetics
Practicing good oral hygiene and managing your diabetes can greatly reduce the risk of oral health problems. Follow these dental care tips to help protect your smile:
- Brush at least twice a day: Brush the teeth at least twice a day, in the morning and once before bed, to decrease the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Also, be sure to brush for a full two minutes each time you brush to thoroughly clean the teeth.
- Floss at least once a day: Because diabetics are at increased risk of gum disease, it's crucial to floss daily. Flossing removes plaque and food remnants from between the teeth and along the gum line where brushing can't reach, reducing the risk of gum disease.
- Rinse with water after meals and between brushings: To help fight dry mouth, diabetics should rinse their mouths with water after meals and between brushings. This helps remove food remnants from the teeth and neutralize acids within the mouth when insufficient saliva is a problem.
- Schedule regular dental exams and cleanings: Regular dental exams and cleanings are recommended every six months and are particularly important for diabetics who are at increased risk of oral health issues. Regular exams allow oral health issues to be caught early, and cleanings help prevent plaque and tartar buildup, reducing the risk of gum disease.
- Keep your diabetes under control: Keeping blood glucose levels under control is not only beneficial for a diabetic's general health, it can help lower the risk of gum disease and other oral health problems.
Learn More about Dental Care for Diabetics
For more information about dental care for diabetics, including a personalized treatment plan, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Coffey.