When you have diabetes, proper oral care is more important than ever—what’s happening in your mouth affects the rest of your body, and what’s happening in the rest of your body affects your mouth. According to the American Dental Association, people with diabetes face higher risks for dental problems like bacterial and fungal mouth infections, gum inflammation, tooth decay, dry mouth, changes in taste sensitivity, and more. So what does this mean for you? As a patient with diabetes, do you know how to protect your overall health through your teeth and gums? Believe it or not, caring for your oral health is a powerful step towards caring for all of the rest of your health—and it’s a powerful step within your reach.
Because your physical health is too important an issue to overlook, it’s time to consider how dental care matters for diabetics. With that in mind, below are five key steps you ought to take starting now:
- Manage Your Blood Sugar: As a diabetic, you already know managing your blood sugar is vital for your overall health, but here’s why it matters for your mouth: The higher your blood sugar, the higher your risk for oral disease. The more sugars and starches you have circling around in your mouth, the more at risk you are for developing cavities/tooth decay, as well as more serious issues like early gum disease (gingivitis) and advanced gum disease (periodontitis). Commit to monitoring your blood sugar levels, and follow your physician’s instructions for staying within your target range.
- Practice Good Oral Hygiene: It’s as true for diabetics as it is for everyone else: Proper oral hygiene is vital. Most dentists agree you should brush your teeth at least twice a day—first in the morning and second at night. It’s also helpful to brush after meals and snacks to keep food remnants from lingering on your teeth. Likewise, floss at least once a day to get rid of pesky plaque that your toothbrush misses.
- Schedule Regular Dental Cleanings: Right up there with good oral hygiene habits is scheduling regular professional cleanings. These dental visits are like ongoing preventative maintenance for your car—they provide important checks to protect you from unknowingly developing serious problems. For best results, visit your dentist at least twice a year for regular checkups.
- Communicate with Your Dentist: First things first, tell your dentist you have diabetes. Every time you visit, remind the office personnel and/or make sure it’s in your chart. Dental professionals are aware of and equipped to help the specific needs of diabetics, but they need to know what’s going on. Likewise, be alert for oral warning signs and make sure your dentist knows what you’re experiencing. Clues that something might be wrong include bleeding gums, red and swollen gums, gums that pull away from teeth, changes in your bite, changes in the fit of dentures or bridges, and moving/loose teeth. Finally, you should also connect your dentist with your physician to keep open communication flowing between everyone concerned with your health.
- Quit Bad Habits: If you’ve been putting off the decision to quit smoking, there’s never a better time than when you find out you have diabetes. Smoking increases all kinds of health risks, including but not limited to gum disease. If you’re stumped about how to kick this habit, ask your doctor for help. The sooner you can stop smoking, the better for your health.
Following the advice outlined above is vital for managing oral health as a diabetic. While it’s true that diabetes increases health risks, it’s also true that you can do something about it. Practice these smart habits, and you provide a solid foundation for good health.
Photo credit: Deposit Photos
Darla Scheidt is the Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, a successful multi-office, multi-specialty group dental practice in the Chicago western suburbs. With four offices, over 30 doctors and having been in practice for over 40 years, Grove Dental stays on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.
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