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Diabetes and Dental Health

Brooke Marsal, MS, RD
October 3, 2022
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Diabetes affects many different parts of the body, including your mouth, teeth, and gums. The high blood sugar levels, poor circulation, and inflammation can cause a number of dental health problems. In fact, 22% of people with diabetes are diagnosed with periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. This is why it is important to understand how diabetes can affect your dental health and to make sure you are taking preventative measures. 

The Effect on Dental Health 

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), diabetes impacts many different areas of dental health. It causes a(n)

  • Decrease in saliva production, which increases the risk of developing cavities
  • Increased risk of gingivitis (inflamed and bleeding gums)
  • Increased risk of developing mouth infections 
  • Increased risk of periodontal disease 

All of this is the result of high blood sugar. It is easier for bacteria to grow and infections to occur when there is a lot of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar levels also slow down wound healing, which makes it harder to recover from injuries to the mouth. And lastly, high blood sugar causes dehydration and damages salivary glands. This leads to less saliva production, dry mouth, and an increased risk of cavities.

Protecting Dental health

Just because you are at greater risk for dental health complications, doesn’t mean that you will develop any of the above oral health problems. The following preventative measures can help keep your teeth and your mouth healthy. 

Manage blood sugar levels

Regularly taking your medications and watching your diet can help keep blood sugar levels under control. By keeping blood sugar levels in normal range you can help prevent bacterial infections. Talk to your care team for your blood sugar monitoring schedule. 

Brush your teeth twice a day

Ideally brush your teeth after breakfast and right before bed. If you really want to be on top of it you can also brush your teeth after lunch to make sure that your teeth are clean after each meal. 

Floss your teeth at least once a day

Flossing helps to remove plaque from around the teeth and under the gums.

Schedule regular dental visits

If you can, try to go to the dentist twice a year. Have them clean your teeth and take X-Rays as appropriate.

Look for early signs of gum disease

Self-monitoring is a great way to catch infections early. Early signs including red, swollen, and bleeding gums.Other signs of gum disease include loose teeth and mouth pain. 

Avoid smoking

Even if you regularly brush your teeth, your mouth is still filled with bacteria. This bacteria actually helps keep your mouth healthy and wards off infections. This is very similar to how the bacteria in your gut keeps you healthy. Smoking changes the bacteria in your mouth. It kills off the good guys and allows the bad guys to come in.

Takeaways 

Dental hygiene is an important part of diabetes management. It requires daily work, but through regularly brushing and flossing your teeth, taking your diabetes medication, being mindful about food choices, and regularly seeing your dentist for cleanings and checkups, you can keep your teeth healthy and your smile pretty. 

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