Diabetes and Oral Hygiene
When you have diabetes, high blood sugar can take a toll on your entire body — including your teeth and gums. Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, managing your blood sugar level is key. The higher your blood sugar level, the higher your risk of following dental problems:
- Tooth decay (cavities) – Your mouth naturally contains many types of bacteria. When starches and sugars in food and beverages interact with these bacteria, a sticky film known as plaque forms on your teeth. The acids in plaque attack the surfaces of your teeth (enamel and dentin). This can lead to cavities. The higher your blood sugar level, the greater the supply of sugars and starches and the more acid wearing away at your teeth.
- Gum disease – Diabetes reduces your ability to fight bacteria. If you don’t remove plaque with regular brushing and flossing, it will harden under your gum line into a substance called tartar. The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more they irritate the part of your gums around the base of your teeth. In time, your gums become swollen and bleed easily. This is gingivitis.
- Advanced gum disease (periodontitis) – Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a more serious infection called periodontitis, which destroys the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. Eventually, periodontitis causes your gums and jawbone to pull away from your teeth, which in turn causes your teeth to loosen and possibly fall out. Periodontitis tends to be more severe among people who have diabetes because diabetes lowers the ability to resist infection and slows healing. An infection such as periodontitis may also cause your blood sugar level to rise, which in turn makes your diabetes more difficult to control. Preventing and treating periodontitis can help improve blood sugar control.
To help prevent damage to your teeth and gums, take diabetes and dental care seriously:
- Make a commitment to manage your diabetes.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss your teeth at least once a day.
- Schedule regular dental visits.
- Make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes.
- Look for early signs of gum disease.
- Don’t smoke.
Ref: American Diabetes Association, Diabetic Forecast Mar 2016
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