As we already know, having diabetes means that you have to pay more attention to your overall health. This includes your oral health. Diabetes and dental problems are very common, especially in those with poor blood sugar control.
In some instances diabetes is first detected via problems in the mouth with tooth decay or mouth ulcers, this is because diabetes lowers your resistance to infections meaning that cuts and abrasions are not as quick to heal in diabetics.
As a diabetic it is important that you check in with your dentist at least twice a year. Unfortunately diabetes and dental problems go hand in hand primarily due to the increase in sugar in the saliva. Dental care such as fillings and root canal therapy is expensive, I can personal attest to that. With proper care however you can keep your diabetes and dental problems to a minimum.
Research shows us that gum disease is much more prevalent in diabetics than non-diabetics. This means that the ever growing list of complications associated with diabetes has another problem. The list includes heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, liver problems, issues with the eyes and feet, erectile dysfunction amongst a host other other problems. Please see my blog posts on how diabetes affects all of these parts of the body below.
Examples of diabetes and dental problems
Gum disease is can vary from gingivitis which is an early stage of gun disease to periodontitis which is more serious (and described below). Dental plaque can form into tartar that attacks the gums and teeth. This can lead to your teeth falling out. The more unmanaged your blood sugar levels are the less chance your body has of healing infections. Gum disease symptoms include bleeding gums, loose teeth or spaces opening between your teeth. Watch for any of these symptoms and speak to your dentist ASAP if they arise.
Is an infection which attacks the bones supporting your teeth. This is the worst kind of gum disease as it can destroy your gums entirely and your jaw bone and see all the teeth fall out of your head. Unfortunately for diabetics statistics suggest that up to 20% of diabetics may face this awful oral disease. As you age it is vital to take the proper precautions to save your teeth. As with all infections periodontal disease can itself cause your blood sugar levels to rise, making it a double whammy to avoid at all costs.
Bad control of your blood sugar levels can mean that more sugar is in your mouth consistently. One thing most of us were taught as small children is that sweets rot your teeth. It is essential that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Ideally using a good dental floss to remove food that can stay locked in between teeth.
How to manage your diabetes and dental problems
Quitting smoking, lowering your overall intake of sugar and managing your blood sugar levels are optimal ways to ensure that your teeth and gums are in the best possible shape. Seeing a dentist at least twice a year for a general check up and comprehensive clean is also a good way to care for your gums and teeth. Drink plenty of water, floss and chew sugar free gums.
Speak to your dentist
It is important that you tell your dentist that you are a diabetic. You may also wish to inform him or her of your blood sugar control and your eating habits. A dentist may decide, as they did with me, to put you on prescription tooth paste that contains a higher content of fluoride. This tooth paste is slightly more expensive than everyday over the counter tooth paste but it is a small price to pay in comparison to fillings, root canal treatment and crowns.
More dental tips for diabetics
Outside of keeping good control of your blood sugar levels (which is crucial) you may wish to consider the other tips on dental care
- Using an alcohol free mouthwash to help with a dry mouth
- Bush your teeth 30 minutes after every meal
- Use a tooth brush with as softer bristles as possible. You may have to pay a little bit extra at the chemist for such a toothbrush
- Try to floss as much as possible especially after eating meat which can remain stuck between the teeth
- Quit smoking. This will help not only with your teeth but with your overall health
It is vital that you have a dentist who is familiar with your diabetes and that you book in to see him or her at least twice per year. The financial cost associated with regular check-ups is nothing compared with the costs associated with fixing problems. Diabetes and dental problems is not something that grabs the detrimental headlines the way diabetes and heart attacks or strokes does but it is still a major issue affecting diabetics worldwide.
Please see some other blog posts about problems associated with having diabetes including –
If you are a diabetic that has has dental issues in the past please reach out below.