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Diabetes and Dental Health

Diabetes is generally thought of as solely a blood sugar issue. But diabetes can take a toll on many areas of the body, including the mouth. Oral health can be greatly affected by diabetes. If you are given a diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes, taking good care of your teeth, gums, and mouth is a very important step to good overall health.

Did you know?

- Diabetes reduces your body’s ability to fight bacteria, which can cause more plaque to build up on your teeth than might otherwise. If you don’t remove plaque with regular brushing and flossing, it’ll harden under your gumline into a substance called tartar (calculus). The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more they irritate the gingiva — the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. In time, your gums become swollen and bleed easily, which generally leads to a diagnosis of gingivitis, or early gum disease.

- Tooth decay and cavities are more common in those with diabetes. Since diabetes reduces your body’s ability to fight bacteria as discussed above, it makes teeth more susceptible to eventual decay from the effect of bacteria on enamel. Additionally, diabetes also means higher blood sugar, which leads to a greater supply of sugars and starches in the mouth for bacteria to feed on, which can also mean more acid erosion present to damage teeth’s surfaces.

- Those who have allowed gingivitis (early gum disease) to advance to a more serious stage, called periodontitis, before seeking treatment, may find that they now have several problems that could have otherwise been prevented, including:

– Infections that could require treatment with antibiotics

– Damage of not only the enamel, but also the soft tissues and bone structure that support the teeth – Missing teeth from the weakening of the mouth’s structure.

Periodontitis can also cause an elevation in blood sugar, which in turn makes it even harder to control a diabetic state.

Taking care of your teeth when faced with a diagnosis of diabetes is important, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

To ensure good oral health, be sure to do the following:

- Manage your diabetes by following your doctor’s recommendations for dietary changes, lifestyle modification, and medical treatment.

- Brush at least twice a day.

- Floss daily.

- Schedule professional dental cleanings at least every six month, and more frequently if you notice a problem.

- If you require dental surgery, make sure your dentist speaks with your doctor about any precautions that may need to be taken and that any medications you are on have been noted.

- Keep an eye on our any signs of early dental disease, such as bleeding gums or unusual sensitivity, and be seen by your dentist if there is an ongoing issue.

- If you smoke, quit. Smoking increases the risk of advanced diabetes and gum disease.

Diabetes can be controlled when a commitment to a healthy lifestyle is made, and that includes taking good care of your oral health needs.

–Dr. Shannon Norman-Kotre, Ann Arbor Dentist


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