This post was written by Alexis Pisana De Leon, our Community Relations Coordinator in Roswell, NM.
When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, be it type l, type ll, or prediabetes, they will be taken through a crash course on how to change their lifestyle. Common lifestyle changes that need to occur include nutrition, activity level, and daily habits, along with being proactive about doctor visits. Oral health is not at the top of the list, but that does not make it insignificant! In fact, the body’s reaction to gum disease (aka periodontal disease) can increase your blood glucose levels dangerously.
A person with diabetes needs to inform their dentist that they are diabetic. This ensures that proper treatment and care is conducted, as well as taking the necessary precautions during your visit.
Unfortunately, gum disease is the sixth leading complication for diabetics, since they are 4 times as likely to develop the disease versus non-diabetics.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the entire mouth from the gums down to the bone, and if left untreated, tooth loss can be expected. The main cause of this disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless microbial film that constantly forms on your teeth. This film of bacterial plaque irritates the gums causing infection.
There are other major concerns when dealing with diabetes from a dental perspective.
A common fungal infection that occurs from diabetes is Thrush. Candida Albicans causes Thrush and while it is normally present in the mouth, infection occurs due to lack of saliva and high glucose levels. This infection thrives on the oral surface, which will appear white and swollen in patches. Unlike gum disease, this infection is easier to treat, usually with topical medications.
While dealing with diabetes can be frustrating and time consuming, there are many ways to prevent problems down the road:
- Keep blood sugar as close to normal as possible. This will keep the body free of inflammation and less susceptible to thrush and other infections.
- Brush teeth 2 times a day along with using floss and fluoride mouthwash. Great oral hygiene is the best way to protect against diseases.
- Go to the dentist for 6 month cleanings and check-ups.
- Denture wearers: remove them and clean them daily. DO NOT sleep in dentures, as this will allow bacteria to thrive in the porous acrylic.
- Finally, smokers should talk to their doctors about quitting, as this will only increase the chance of developing gum disease.
Taking these helpful tips into consideration will not only improve oral hygiene, but also overall health. Diabetics should keep their dentists and doctors updated on any changes that might be due to your diabetes. Diabetes is a disease but that does not mean it has to have a detrimental impact on oral hygiene.