November is National Diabetes Month, a health initiative that not only focuses on physical health but dental health, as well. Patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for dental problems, specifically gum disease. With uncontrolled diabetes, saliva becomes concentrated with high levels of glucose and leads to a growth of harmful bacteria. These bacteria combine with the sugar found in the food we eat to form plaque, which leads to decay and eventual disease. Find out how you can prevent gum disease this November by following these tips for good dental health!
What Is Diabetes?
One of the most common medical conditions among the American populace is diabetes, which is a condition in which the body doesn’t regulate its ability to process sugar. The food we eat is turned into sugar for energy in the body, but in diabetic patients, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin to carry out this process or it becomes resistant to it, causing high blood sugar levels. Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes occur in millions of people each year, and all three have their various triggers and symptoms. Type 1 diabetes usually presents itself during childhood and early adolescence and it is characterized by the body’s inability to create insulin, an essential hormone that carries sugar to cells to create energy. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin and stops responding to it, causing sugar to be deposited in the bloodstream rather than the cells where it’s needed. Type 2 typically occurs in those over age 40, but can develop in anyone of any age. Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women and increases their blood sugar levels at various points during their pregnancy, but typically during the later stages. Gestational diabetes typically occurs in women over the age of 35 or those who have a family history of it, but it also happens to completely healthy and diabetes-free women, as well.
No matter which type of diabetes you have, each present similar complications when it comes to eye, heart and nerve health. However, many don’t realize its influence on oral health and that those with diabetes have a higher chance of experiencing dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease than those without this condition. Knowing the effects that diabetes has on oral health is an important part of learning how to take care of all aspects of your health so that you can live a happy life.
How Diabetes Affects Oral Health
Our mouths are full of bacteria, whether we brush our teeth or not. Some bacteria are good while others are bad, and the bad ones love to feed on sugar so that they can keep on growing. For diabetics, this is a problem since the amount of sugar (glucose) in their saliva is higher than those without diabetes, leaving them at-risk for oral health problems. As the bacteria feeds on the extra sugar found in your saliva, your teeth can develop periodontal disease which can eventually destroy your gums and bones that are holding your teeth in place. Additionally, diabetes tends to weaken the white blood cells in our bodies, meaning our bodies can’t fight off infections as easily as before. These white blood cells are essential in combating bacterial infections in the mouth, and if you aren’t producing enough of them, you can suffer from major oral health issues. Not only that, but diabetics have a higher chance of experiencing dry mouth, thrush and gingivitis than those who don’t have diabetes, and these problems can be expensive and painful to treat. If your diabetes is left uncontrolled, you run the risk of experiencing at least one of these dental complications, which includes cavities, bleeding gums and even the inability to taste food. Knowing how to prevent these troubles, whether diabetic or not, will greatly improve your oral health and keep your mouth disease-free for years to come.
Tips To Keep Teeth Disease-Free
While most people can’t prevent diabetes from developing, there are certain tips to keep in mind to keep your teeth healthy even after an unfortunate diagnosis. Since diabetics have more sugar in their saliva, that means there are more opportunities for this sugar to stick to their teeth and turn into decay-causing plaque. To combat this, it’s essential to brush and floss teeth thoroughly each and every day to keep the surfaces of your teeth and the crevices between them clean. Secondly, if you have an addictive habit like smoking, quit it. Those who smoke already have an increased chance of developing oral cancer, decay and damaged oral tissue, but diabetics who smoke have an even larger chance of experiencing all of these than those who smoke and aren’t diabetic. Lastly, meeting with your dentist for regular dental checkups will allow him/her to monitor your teeth for signs of decay and provide a thorough cleaning to remove sticky plaque that could lead to periodontal disease. Diabetics typically need to visit their dentist more often since they run a higher risk for decay, so make sure that you’re scheduling a checkup at least every six months, if not sooner, to ensure that your teeth are in optimal shape.
Protect Your Smile With Our Help!
At Mountain Aire Dentistry, we care about your oral health and are experienced with helping diabetic patients navigate their oral health needs so that they can continue smiling with confidence. If you’re due for a dental checkup or have questions regarding diabetes and oral health, call our office at (303) 731-7755. Diabetes is a life-long condition that you will have to adjust to, but don’t forget about your oral health during this time. Call today to get your dental health back on track!