Living with diabetes can affect your entire body and your mouth no exception. The good news however is that by effectively managing your blood sugar and practicing good oral hygiene habits, you can avoid diabetes-related problems to your teeth and gums.
Diabetes can take a toll on your mouth in the following ways:
• Tooth decay (cavities) – When bacteria in the mouth interact with sugars and starches found in the food we eat, it creates plaque, which destroys the enamel on our teeth and creates cavities. There are more sugars and starches in the mouths of diabetics because they have higher blood glucose levels, and are therefore more susceptible to tooth erosion and damage.
• Gum disease (gingivitis) – Diabetes reduces our bodies ability to fight bacteria, such as plaque. When plaque hardens on the gum line, it creates tartar, which can irritate the gums and cause swelling and bleeding. Gum disease can advance to a condition known as periodontitis, which can result in your teeth falling out.
• Thrush -People with diabetes who take antibiotics to combat infections are more likely to develop this fungal infection of the mouth and tongue, causing a burning sensation. This fungus thrives on the high levels of blood sugar found in the saliva of diabetics.
You can do a lot to avoid these problems, including:
• Manage your diabetes by monitoring your blood sugar and keeping it within your target range
• Take good care of your mouth by brushing at least two times per day with a soft-bristled brush and floss once per day to help remove plaque.
• Schedule regular dental visits and make sure your dentist is aware that you have diabetes and provide him with your doctor’s contact information.
• Look out for early signs of gum disease such as redness, bleeding or swelling. Also alert your dentist of loose teeth or mouth pain.
• Quit smoking as it increases the risk of serious diabetic complications, including gum disease. Ask your doctor about ways to quit if you need help.
If you have diabetes and are experiencing problems with your teeth and gums, make an appointment with your dentist immediately. Jamaica Hospital operates a full-service dental facility on its main campus. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 718-206-6980.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.