More than 23 million people in the United States have diabetes. If you’re one of them, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to know how diabetes affects your oral health. You might be surprised to learn that if your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease (periodontitis) and lose more teeth than people who don’t have diabetes. In turn, periodontitis may cause your blood sugar to rise, making your diabetes harder to control.
What puts people with diabetes at higher risk for gum disease? The less controlled your blood sugar level, the more impaired your white blood cells become. These guys are the main defense against bacterial infections that occur in your mouth. With less of them fighting infections, there’s more chance serious dental problems will occur. The good news is a dentist can keep an eye on your oral health and help keep gum disease at bay.
The No. 1 most important thing people with diabetes can do for their oral health is to keep their blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. Gums stay healthy when the teeth around them are free of dental plaque and dental tartar. To keep your teeth and gums clean, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. If you wear dentures, remove and clean them every day.
Regular dental visits are your best weapon in the fight against gum disease. Only a professional dental cleaning can remove dental plaque and dental tartar. That’s why having your teeth and gums checked and cleaned by your dentist twice a year is so important. (Your dentist may recommend more frequent visits depending on the status of your diabetes.) At each dental visit, discuss your diabetes status (how well controlled your blood sugar is) and the medications you take.
It’s important for everyone to practice good oral hygiene, but even more so for people with diabetes. And keep an eye out for any changes in your oral health. If you notice anything, call your dentist right away.
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