Did you know that 30.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes? That’s 1 in every 4 people over 65 years of age.
Diabetes is a disease that prevents the body from processing the sugar properly. Everything we eat is converted to sugar, which is then broken down to provide energy. There are at least four types of diabetes – Type I, Type II, Gestational and Monogenic diabetes.
There is no known cure for diabetes. However, lifestyle changes can help you manage the disease and keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. Poor management of the disease can lead to a myriad of complications which include:
- Eye problems – which can cause blindness
- Dental disease – gingivitis (gum disease)
- Nerve damage – which can lead to tingling sensations in affected body parts
- Foot problems – ulcers and wounds that don’t heal can cause amputations
Today, however, we’re going to take a closer look at five ways in which diabetes affects your oral health, and the best tips to take care of your teeth.
1. Diabetes causes gum disease
Bleeding and inflamed gums, also known as gingivitis in the dental community can be caused and aggravated by diabetes. Gingivitis is the beginning of gum disease and is, in fact, an infection of the tissues in the mouth. This infection is generally caused by bacteria and plaque that gets accumulated on the teeth over time.
Tips to prevent the development of gingivitis:
- Brush your teeth regularly, at least twice a day, but after every meal is preferable.
- Floss your teeth often as well.
- Eliminate tobacco and smoking from your lifestyle.
- Review prescription and non-prescription medication such as steroids and oral contraceptives with your physician.
2. Diabetes may cause you to have a dry mouth
We rarely stop to think about saliva, because our mouths are usually well-lubricated. However, diabetes can disrupt an otherwise normal body function: secretion of saliva which leads to dry mouth.
Saliva is a very important lubricant that’s needed in our mouths to carry out a variety of functions. It helps to keep our teeth strong because it contains minerals and proteins needed to fortify teeth enamel, prevent decay and gum disease. The clear substance also contains enzymes which breakdown food, fight germs and bad breath.
Tips to prevent a dry mouth:
- Drink plenty of water every day.
- Stay away from sugary foods including artificial sweeteners
- Eat foods rich in fiber such as vegetables and fruits.
- Review any medication you’re taking with your physician.
- Suck on mints periodically during the day, or chew sugar-free gum.
3. Diabetes may lead to more cavities
Studies abound which demonstrate that diabetes does, in fact, induce dental caries. Our teeth are covered with the plaque that contains bacteria. This bacteria isn’t harmful in and of itself, but when we eat food, the bacteria gets active and release acids which attack our teeth enamel. If we don’t brush our teeth after eating, this repeated cycle of attack on teeth enamel will eventually wear down the enamel leading to dental cavities.
If you’re diabetic, the high sugar levels in your saliva will keep these bacteria more active than usual, meaning you’re at a greater risk of developing dental caries.
Tips to prevent dental cavity development:
- Adopt a diet that’s low in sugar and starch
- Use fluoride toothpaste to brush teeth at least twice a day
- Floss teeth regularly as well
- Visit your dentist regularly
- Gather more information from Online dental CE and stay ahead in keeping your dental health to the optimum
4. Diabetes can affect your taste buds
As we get older, the number of taste buds in our mouth also decrease. Diabetes is a disease that is known to affect our nerves and nerve endings. High blood sugar damages the minute blood vessels that supply the nerves. This stops key nutrients from reaching the nerves. As a result, these nerve fibers are subsequently destroyed and disappear. So if you are a diabetic there are greater chances that your taste buds get affected.
Tips to prevent decreased taste buds:
- Keep tabs on your blood sugar levels.
- Watch what you eat – don’t increase sugar and starch in your diet.
5. Diabetes can affect wound healing
It’s no secret that wounds take longer to heal in people who are diabetic. In fact, diabetics are 15% more likely to develop chronic wounds. Wounds in diabetic patients are the cause of concern as 84% of amputations are always preceded by ulcers or wounds. Wounds or ulcers in the mouth can lead to serious issues with eating and can be very uncomfortable.
Tips to prevent oral wounds from developing:
- Take care when brushing your teeth
- Don’t let dental floss cut your gums when you floss – employ mask of restrict
- Ensure that your food is well cooked and not difficult to chew
- Avoid eating foods with edges such as chewing on meat bones
Prevention is better than cure
Many of these oral diseases can be prevented if you manage your diabetes well. Establishing a simple routine of brushing your teeth regularly and eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetable while being low in sugar will go a long way in helping you maintain good oral health. However, don’t shy away from going to the dentist if some dental problems arise. If some procedure is required the dentist may have to use a mask of restrict. This would make the procedure pain and anxiety free.