What does diabetes have to do with brushing and flossing? If you are a diabetic, you need to make sure you take care of your mouth. In addition to their diet and blood sugar, individuals who have diabetes need to pay special attention to their oral care routine. Diabetics have a higher risk for oral health problems and that is the reason why dental care is so important.
People with diabetes are more prone to mouth infections like gum disease which damages the bone and gum that hold your teeth in place. If left unchecked, high glucose levels can create an environment where bacteria can grow. This will make it easier for plaque to turn into tartar and result in gum disease. In order to have healthy blood sugar levels, you need to practice good oral care, eat a well-balanced diet and regularly visit the dentist. You should make an appointment at the dentist right away if: your gums are swollen, red, leak pus or bleed easily; you have persistent bad breath; your gums pull away from the teeth, or there is any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
Diabetes gives diabetics bad breath because as we already mentioned, rapid bacteria growth is caused by high blood sugar levels. Also, the body’s cells can’t get the glucose they need without the proper amount of insulin, so the body burns fat instead and ketones amass in the urine and blood. You can fight diabetic breath by not smoking, removing dentures at night if you wear them, drinking a lot of water every day, controlling your blood sugar, swishing with mouthwash, and using a tongue scraper daily.
Diabetes patients have impaired salivary gland functions which result in reduced flow of saliva and dry mouth, also known as xerostomia. Dry mouth can lead to loss of taste buds, yeast infection, poor denture bonding, oral mucosa, tooth decay, and ulcers. In order to avoid dry mouth, drink plenty of water every day, especially during meals. Also, suck on sugar-free candy if you need more relief from dry mouth.
People with diabetes are prone to developing fungal infections because they have compromised immune systems. Thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection that occurs in the mouth. Thrush creates red or white patches that can be sore and eventually develop into ulcers. The patches can also make it difficult to swallow when they attack the tongue, because they give an unpleasant burning sensation. Thrush seems to affect more people who need to be treated often with antibiotics, wear dentures or smoke. What also increases this risk is high glucose levels. If it happens you developed a fungal infection, make an appointment at the dentist who will prescribe antifungal medications.
People who have an unhealthy level of blood sugar should hold off any dental procedure. The healing process after dental surgery or other dental procedure can be slowed by poorly controlled diabetes because the blood flow to the affected area will be limited. The body will have a better chance to heal when the blood sugar levels are under control.
Dental Care Tips for Diabetics
You need to take dental care seriously in order to prevent damage to your teeth and gums.
- Brush your teeth after every meal. After you eat, wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth in order to protect the tooth enamel that might be softened by the acid in the food.
- Use a brush that has soft bristles and a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Avoid harsh or vigorous scrubbing because it can be counter-productive and irritate your gums.
- To remove the plaque under your gum line and between your teeth, floss at least once a day. Use the waxed variety if you have trouble getting the dental floss between your teeth. You can also use an interdental cleaner. Look for products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which is a symbol that guarantees that the product you are buying is effective and safe when used as directed.
- Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels, and follow the instructions from your doctor in order to keep your blood sugar level within the target range. It is less likely to develop dental problems if you better control your blood sugars.
- In case you wear dentures, do not sleep in them. Remove them and clean them regularly.
- Regularly visiting your dentist is a solid foundation for keeping a healthy smile. Talk to your dentist about any oral health concerns you might have and about your current health status in general. Tell him or her that you have diabetes, how well are you controlling it, and your dentist about any medication you are taking.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of fungal infections, gum disease, and loss of teeth.