Diabetes and Your Oral Health

As a nation, the U.S. faces a growing problem, literally. Approximately one-third of all adults meet the criteria of obesity, according to statistics compiled by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and two-thirds qualify as overweight. Considering the strong links research has shown to exist between obesity and diabetes, it’s not surprising that the prevalence of diabetes has steadily increased in recent years as well.

Approximately 25 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and another 79 million qualify as having prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. While people struggling to deal with diabetes understand their condition places them at higher risk of stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure, many don’t realize that diabetes can also negatively affect their oral health.

Diabetes & Your Oral Health

Diabetes places a person at higher risk of developing dental problems by impairing the body’s ability to fight bacteria in the mouth. Since high blood sugar levels encourage the rapid growth of bacteria, which contributes to gum disease, the body becomes unable to protect or maintain your oral health.

Indications of gum disease include:

  • Swollen, red, bleeding, or sore gums that can begin to pull away from your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • An irregular bite or ill-fitting dentures

Controlling your diabetes can help contribute to having strong oral health. However, if you suffer from high or poorly controlled blood sugar, you have a higher risk of developing dry mouth, a fungal infection, gum disease, or of losing teeth. Since insulin injections cause your blood sugar levels to rise, your diabetes may become even harder to control. Fortunately you can help mange your blood sugar level by keeping your mouth healthy.

Protecting Your Oral Health

Since individuals with diabetes are more likely to suffer from oral infections, it’s important that you schedule a checkup at least twice a year with Dr. Hikade and let her know that you have diabetes and what medications you take. Not only will regular checkups allow the doctor to check for any signs of gum disease, but they will also help to remove any excess plague that has built up in your mouth.

Plaque, a sticky bacteria that forms on your teeth, releases acids that destroys tooth enamel each time you eat. Untreated plaque will turn into tartar, which builds up under your gum lines and is difficult to remove by flossing. It’s important to quickly remove any buildup of plaque, as the longer it remains on your teeth, the more damage it can cause. The bacteria found in plaque can also cause inflammation and lead to gum disease. Just as high blood sugar can negatively affect your body’s ability to fight the buildup of bacteria in the mouth, it can also make gum disease worse.

Because of how susceptible individuals with diabetes are to the affects of gum disease, it’s crucially important you brush and floss regularly. Ideally, individuals with diabetes should brush after each meal to prevent plaque from weakening tooth enamel. If brushing isn’t allows an option following a meal, you should thoroughly rise your mouth with water to remove any remaining food particles.

Flossing daily helps to remove plaque and food particles that your toothbrush can’t reach. Failing to floss allows food particles to remain trapped between your teeth where they can begin to fester, leading to bad breath and tooth decay.

If you need any tips on proper brushing and flossing techniques, or have a question about how to protect your oral health, Happy Valley, Oregon dentist Dr. Hikade would be happy to help.

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