Dental Care

Oral Health & Diabetes

There are 20.8 million people in the United States who have diabetes. If you or your child has diabetes, you need to take extra care to maintain your oral health, because tooth and periodontal (gum) diseases are more common and serious for people with diabetes.

This increased risk of periodontal disease is thought to be due to the increased susceptibility to infection and inflammation associated with diabetes. Periodontal disease is frequently considered the sixth complication of diabetes.

Research indicates that periodontal disease has made it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar. In addition, recent studies found that when periodontal infections were treated, control of blood sugar and diabetes management improved significantly.

About Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a broad term used to describe various diseases that affect the gums, bone and surrounding structures of the teeth. Gum disease starts with plaque, the sticky film of food, saliva and germs that often settles at the gum line. If not cleaned away, the plaque hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar needs to be removed from your teeth by your dentist or dental hygienist.

Periodontitis is the more severe stage of gum disease; pockets form between your teeth and gums, filling with germs and infection. Sometimes surgery is needed to stop this process and save your teeth. If left untreated, you could lose your teeth.

Early warning signs of periodontal (gum) disease are:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Painful or tender gums
  • Itchy sensation of the gums
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Constant bad breath or taste
  • Pus between teeth and when gums are pressed
  • Gums pulling away from teeth

About Good Oral Care

Now for the good news: with good oral care, you can fight periodontal disease.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day* (see below)
  • Floss your teeth at least daily
  • Watch for early signs of periodontal (gum) disease
  • See your dentist at least twice a year
  • Consult with your dentist to determine how many times a year you should have your teeth cleaned by your dental hygienist

* Use a toothbrush with a rounded end and soft bristles to avoid hurting your mouth. Use gentle back-andforth strokes to brush your teeth, gums and tongue. Get a new toothbrush every four months.

Other oral health issues associated with diabetes are:

  • Tooth decay
  • Fungal infections
  • Mouth infections
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor healing

Again, good oral care is critical to fight tooth decay and infections. Visit your dentist or doctor if you have a mouth infection.Drinking more fluids, using sugar-free gum and sugar-free candy or over-the-counter saliva substitutes may help if you have dry mouth. Tell your dentist that you have diabetes, as he/she might prescribe antibiotics after certain procedures.

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