People with diabetes have a higher risk of gum disease, as well as other dental problems like oral infections and dry mouth. That's why it's important to really take care of your teeth with good oral hygiene and regular visits to your dentist.
The Diabetes-Dental Connection
The sticky plaque that builds up on your teeth is full of bacteria. When you have diabetes, high blood sugar feeds that bacteria. Chronically elevated blood glucose increases your risks of tooth and gum problems.
The plaque can build up on your teeth and under your gums. This can start as sore, swollen, and red gums -- a condition called gingivitis. But this can lead to a more serious condition called periodontal disease -- an infection of your gums and the bones that hold your teeth in place. Your gums can shrink and pull away from your teeth. Sometimes pus can fill in the pockets between your teeth. In serious cases, you may even lose teeth.
When you have diabetes, you're also at risk of other mouth problems like bacterial infections, fungal infections, and dry mouth. If you have dental surgery, you have a greater chance of developing infection complications.
What You Can Do
The best way to avoid mouth problems is good preventive care. Here are steps you can take to take care of your mouth.
- Brush at least twice a day. The American Diabetes Association recommends brushing for at least two minutes to make sure you brush every tooth. Use a soft toothbrush with rounded bristles, which are less likely to hurt your gums. Brush all surfaces of your teeth, your gum line, and your gums. Be sure to brush the top of your tongue, too, to remove germs.
- Floss at least once a day. Flossing helps keep plaque from building up on your teeth and below your gum line. Gently use a sawing motion to get between your teeth. Then scrape from bottom to top several times.
- Ask your dentist about mouth rinses. Ask your dentist if you should consider using an antibacterial mouth rinse to help reduce bacteria that causes plaque and gum disease.
- Keep dentures clean. Bacteria can build up on dentures just like on teeth. If you wear dentures, keep them clean. Be sure to also brush your gums and your tongue.
- See your dentist every six months. Make sure you let your dentist know that you have diabetes. Eat before your appointment. The best time for dental work is when your blood sugar level is normal.
- Keep your blood glucose under control. Good blood sugar levels are the most important way to prevent and control mouth problems.
- Don't smoke. Smoking can increase your chance of developing gum disease. It also can make many mouth problems -- like dry mouth and infections -- worse.
How to Spot a Problem
Often there are no early signs of gum disease. That's why it's so important to visit your dentist regularly.
Be sure to make an appointment with your dentist if you have any of the following symptoms. They could be signs of tooth or gum problems from diabetes.
- Red, sore, swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Gums that pull away from your teeth
- Pus between the teeth or gums
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
- Bad breath
- Soreness from dentures