Most of these bacteria are harmless, and some are even helpful. But if some of the wrong ones settle into your gums, you’ve got gum disease. About 80 percent of adults will get gum disease at some point, so it’s a lot more common than you may think!
Unfortunately, people with diabetes are at an even higher risk for gum disease and other dental problems. Diabetes may weaken your mouth and body’s germ-fighting powers, and high blood glucose levels can make gum disease worse. As if that wasn’t enough, gum disease may make blood glucose levels harder to control.
October is National Dental Hygiene Month. To help raise awareness about oral health and what people with diabetes can do to help prevent dental problems, the Association is teaming up with Colgate to provide tips for prevention and treatment. We’ve put together some FAQs that cover everything people with diabetes need to know when it comes to caring for those pearly whites.
In addition to gum disease, what other oral health problems can develop for people with diabetes?
While gum disease is the most common problem, having diabetes also makes you prone to other mouth problems such as oral infections, thrush (a fungal infection), poor healing and dry mouth.
Will poorly controlled blood glucose levels have any effect on developing gum disease?
Yes. High blood glucose levels make gum disease get worse. Like all infections, gum disease can be a factor in causing blood glucose to rise and make diabetes harder to control.
Should I tell my dentist and hygienist that I have diabetes?
Absolutely! People with diabetes have special needs. Keep your dentist and dental hygienist informed of any changes in your diabetes management and any medication(s) you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood glucose is not in good control.
How do I know if I have serious gum disease?
Often there are no signs of serious gum disease. You may not know you have it until you have serious damage. Regular dental visits are your best weapon.
What are the signs of gingivitis and/or serious gum disease?
Some of the possible signs of gingivitis and/or serious gum disease include the following. See your dentist if you experience:
- Bleeding and red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Pus between the teeth and gums (when you press on the gums)
- Bad breath
- Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other
- Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures or bridges
How can I help prevent dental problems associated with diabetes?
- First and foremost, control your blood glucose levels. Good blood glucose control can also help prevent or relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.
- Take good care of your teeth and gums! Develop or continue healthy oral care habits, like brushing and flossing. Research shows that brushing twice a day can help improve gum health in as little as four weeks.
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups every six months.
- Keep your dentist and hygienist informed of any changes in your diabetes management and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood glucose is not in good control.
- To control thrush, maintain good control of your diabetes, avoid smoking and, if you wear them, remove and clean dentures daily.
- Contact your dentist or hygienist ASAP if you experience any of the symptoms above.
Always remember that good dental care can result in a healthy mouth and a smile that will last a lifetime.
Think you know everything there is to know about oral health? Take our quiz to find out! Then let us know how well you did in the comment section below.