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Diabetes and Dental Hygiene

Diabetes and Dental Hygiene

If you have diabetes, you know that high blood sugar takes its toll on the body–and that includes your teeth and gums. Left unchecked, high blood sugar levels can lead to a number of serious dental health problems such as:

  • Tooth decay. The higher the blood sugar levels, the higher the supply of sugars and starches in your mouth. Those sugars and starches produce acid that wears away at your teeth’s enamel and produces dental plaque that can develop into tartar. Tartar is hardened plaque around the gum lines, and it can only be removed by a dental professional like a dental hygienist or dentist. If left untreated, tartar can lead to serious teeth and gum problems such as periodontitis.
  • Early gum disease, or gingivitis. Diabetes reduces the mouth’s ability to fight bacteria, which is why it is crucial for diabetics to remove plaque from the gum line each day with regular brushing and flossing. Because people with diabetes have to fight harder against bacteria, they are vulnerable to early gum disease, known also as gingivitis.
  • Advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. Periodontitis destroys the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. It can eventually lead to tooth loss and the presence of an infection like periodontitis can also cause blood sugar levels to rise. 
  • Thrush. Thrush is a fungal yeast infection characterized by painful, red or white patches on the inside of the mouth or tongue. Again, people with diabetes have lower immune systems which makes them more susceptible to mouth problems like thrush.
  • Dry mouth. Dry mouth is a common issue among diabetics. A dry mouth makes teeth and gums more likely to develop decay or gum disease. 

How to Prevent Dental Problems with Dental Hygiene

The first step anyone with diabetes should take to better control their dental health, and overall health for that matter, is to learn how to properly manage diabetes. Keeping blood sugar levels in check goes a long way in protecting your mouth’s health. In addition to controlling diabetes symptoms, diabetics should also practice good dental hygiene. 

Good dental hygiene begins with brushing your teeth at least twice a day, but also preferably after meals and snacks. Wait about a half-hour after eating to brush your teeth. The enamel of the teeth remains soft for about 30 minutes after eating and brushing too soon after a meal or snack can wear away the enamel. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and, if possible, an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes clean teeth and gums better and are especially helpful if you also have arthritis or other problems that make brushing more difficult.

You should also floss at least once a day as recommended by the American Dental Association. Flossing helps to remove plaque brushing can leave behind. Try the waxed variety or use floss with a handle if you have difficulty navigating the floss between your teeth. 

Good daily dental care isn’t the only step in your dental hygiene routine. Regularly scheduled visits with your dentist are also vital. Your dentist will recommend how many visits you need each year based on your physical and dental health, but most recommend visiting at least one to two times per year for a professional cleaning and exam. People with diabetes, especially those who are experiencing teeth and gum issues, may be asked to come more often to ensure good dental health. 

Finally, if you’re a smoker, you should stop. Not only does it lead to a variety of serious health problems and can make diabetes worse, smoking also destroys teeth and gums. Visit www. quit.com or www.smokefree.gov to get free help quitting the habit. Our health clinic can also provide assistance in quitting. 

Mantachie Rural Health Care is committed to providing healthcare to its rural surrounding communities. That’s why we have a dental clinic right along with our health clinic. By offering both types of care, we help those with diabetes take total care of their physical and dental health. We also offer diabetes education classes each month to help patients learn how to manage their diabetes and live better. Click here to learn more

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