Dental Care and Diabetes: What You Should Know

Sep 29, 2015 @ 09:00 AM — by James Stein

An older couple with healthy looking teeth, smilingIf you have uncontrolled diabetes, whether it's type 1 or type 2, you're at greater risk of many oral health issues. Practicing proper dental care can help prevent dental damage and keep your smile healthy. Fortunately, restorative dentistry treatments can repair dental damage while improving the appearance of your smile. Learn more about dental care and diabetes in this overview from Boston dentist James M. Stein.

Diabetes and the Increased Risk of Oral Health Issues

When diabetes is not controlled, blood sugar levels can become too high, which can lead to general and oral health issues. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels, along with practicing good oral hygiene, can help reduce the risk of oral health issues, including:

  • Gum disease: Those who suffer from diabetes are also at greater risk of developing gum disease, a bacterial infection of the gums. This is because diabetes interferes with the body’s natural ability to fight bacteria. If gum disease goes untreated, it can lead to a more serious form of gum disease, called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause the gums and jawbone to recede, eventually leading to tooth loss. Diabetics are at greater risk of dental damage from advanced gum disease since their ability to heal is impaired.
  • Tooth decay: Tooth decay is caused by a buildup of plaque, which is made up of bacteria, food remnants, and acids from bacterial digestion. The acids in plaque gradually erode the protective layer of the teeth, the enamel, eventually leading to tooth decay. Higher blood sugar levels are often associated with higher levels of sugar and starches, which bacteria thrive on, leading to increased bacterial acid production and tooth decay.

Dental Care Tips for Diabetics

Not only is managing your diabetes important to general health, it's also important to oral health. In addition to keeping your diabetes under control, you can help prevent oral health problems associated with diabetes by practicing these dental care tips:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day: Brush your teeth at least twice a day to reduce plaque and tartar buildup and prevent tooth decay. When brushing, be sure to brush for a full two minutes each time you brush and take special care at the gum line.
  • Floss at least once a day: Flossing your teeth is one of the most effective ways to prevent gum disease because flossing removes plaque between the teeth and along the gum line where brushing alone can't reach. When flossing, bring the floss up and down along each side of each tooth and as far below the gum line as possible.
  • See your dentist regularly: Schedule regular dental exams and cleanings, at least once every six months, to keep your smile healthy and clean. Regular dental visits are key to catching oral health problems early and professional cleanings help prevent tartar buildup.
  • Keep your diabetes under control: Be sure to manage your blood sugar levels and see your general physician to keep your diabetes under control. This can help reduce the risk of oral health and general health issues.

Schedule an Appointment

To discuss your specific dental care needs, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stein.

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