When you have diabetes, the high sugar level in your blood can affect your whole organism, including your teeth and gums.
Cavities, gum disease and other problems
Whether you have Type I diabetes or 2, controlling your sugar level in your blood is essential. The higher the level of sugar in the blood, the higher the risk of :
- Our mouth contains lots of natural bacteria. When starch based foods and sugary foods and drinks interact with these bacteria, a sticky film is formed in our teeth known as plaque.The acids attack the sides of the teeth ( enamel and dentine) This causes cavities aswell as gum diseases.
The higher the level of sugar in the blood, the greater the supply of sugars and starches and the higher the quantity of acids that erodes our teeth.
- Early gum disease (gingivitis).Diabetes reduces our capacity to fight off bacteria. If the plaque is not removed with regular brushing and dental flossing,it will harden below the gum line and form a substance called tartar( dental calculus). The longer the plaque and tartar remains on the teeth, the more irritable are the gums around the base of the teeth. With time, the gums can swell and bleed easily.This is known as gingivitis.
- Advanced gum disease (periodontitis).If the gingivitis is untreated it can cause a more important infection known as periodontitis, that destroys the soft tissue and the bone supporting the teeth. With time, the periodontitis causes the gums and jaw to separate from the teeth, which loosens the teeth and can cause tooth loss.
Periodontitis is much more serious in people who suffer from diabetes, because diabetes weakens our defences to fight infections therefore delayng the healing process. An infection like periodontitis can also increase our levels of sugar in the blood, which in turn makes it increasingly more difficult to control. Preventing and treating periodontitis with regular dental cleanings can help to control the levels of sugar in the blood.
- Canker sores (oral candidiasis) People with diabetes are more prone to develop oral candiasis, which is a fungal infection caused by the yeast Candida albicans . The symptoms of oral candidasis are white or red patches which are painful in the mouth. Having good oral higiene can help to prevent oral candidasis.
- Dry mouth (xerostomía).Some people suffering from diabetes also experience a lack of saliva, a condition called dry mouth. Without saliva to maintain the mouth humid and cover the teeth, there is a greater risk of cavities, gum diseases and oral candidasis.
Proper Dental Care
In order to prevent damage to our teeth and gums, it is necessary to adopt certain measures :
- Make a commitment with regards to controlling your diabetes.Control your blood sugar level and follow your doctor´s instructions in order to maintain your blood sugar level . The better you control the blood sugar level, the less likely you are to develop gingivitis or other dental problems.
- Brush your teeth twice daily. Brush your teeth in the morning, in the night and ideally after every meal.. Use a soft brush and toothpaste which contains fluoride. Avoid brushing hard as this could lead to irritation in the gums.
Consider using an electric toothbrush, especially if you have artritis or other problems which might make it more difficult to brush properly. Change your toothbrush every three months.
- Use dental floss at least once a day.Using dental floss at least once a day helps to remove the plaque under the teeth and below the gum line. If you have problems flossing use the waxed versión. If you fing it difficult flossing use a dental flossing support holder.,
- Have regular check-ups.Visit your dentist at least twice a year for profesional cleanings, x-rays and check-ups.
- Make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes.Remind your dentist on all visits that you have diabetes. Make sure your dentist has all the contact information of the Doctor that is treating your diabetes.
- Check youir gums for early warning signs of gum diseaseInform your dentist of any early signs of gum disease like , redness, inflammation , bleeding. Also mention if you have any other symptoms such as mouth dryness, loose teeth or pain in your mouth.
- Don´t smoke.Smoking increases the risk of serious complications in diabetes , including gum disease and gum los. If you are a smoker , seek advice from your doctor on how to quit smoking.
Controlling diabetes is a life time commitment, and that includes an adequate dental care. Your efforts will be rewarded by healthy gums and teeeth for life.