If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may have done a lot of research on how your condition could affect various systems throughout your body. Left uncontrolled, it can affect many major organs and lead to devastating consequences. It even has a connection to your oral health. Because November is National Diabetes month, we have put together this blog post that discusses how diabetes affects your oral health, and how you can protect your oral health despite having diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes and Dental Health
Estimates vary widely on how many people have type 1 diabetes. It is much rarer than type 2, and in many cases, it is also more serious because these individuals’ bodies do not produce insulin. Thus, they have a continual struggle to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
People with type 1 diabetes are more vulnerable to gum disease than the general population. In fact, according to one estimate, they are five times more likely to have gum disease than people without any form of diabetes! The correlation may be due to the fact that diabetes reduces blood flow to the gums, increases the risk of dry mouth, and lowers the body’s ability to fight infections.
Type 2 Diabetes
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 30 million Americans have diabetes, and the vast majority of those cases are type 2. This condition affects the body’s ability to respond properly to insulin. It can also hinder insulin production.
Both types of diabetes increase the risk of gum disease. Unfortunately, many people with type 2 diabetes do not know about their condition because it may present no obvious symptoms at first. Delays in diagnosis can affect a person’s ability to take proactive steps to protect their oral health.
Preventing Gum Disease as a Diabetic
Regardless of which type of diabetes you have, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of gum disease:
- Thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day
- Floss daily
- Use a mouthwash that is approved by the American Dental Association
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year for checkups
- Openly communicate with your dentist about your diabetes (for example, let them know if you are taking any medications)
- Visit your dentist at the first sign of gum disease (such as red or swollen gums) so they can provide periodontal therapy if necessary
- Do your best to maintain healthy blood glucose levels via a balanced diet and exercise
Diabetes can lead to gum disease, but that does not mean you are doomed to an unhealthy mouth. Good oral health habits can go a long way toward keeping your smile disease-free.
About the Author
Dr. Charles Braga is a dentist and board-certified periodontist. He is able to address all stages of gum disease, from mild to severe. Of course, he would prefer that patients not develop gum disease in the first place, which is why he works along with Dr. Jini Shetty, the general dentist in our practice, to help patients maintain sound oral health. If you would like to speak to our doctors about how you can achieve or maintain healthy gums, contact our team at 603-429-2199.