Diabetes Impact on Teeth and Gums: Beyond many of the traditional issues considered specific to diabetics you can now add oral health. According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA), “Diabetics are more prone to several oral health problems, including tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, salivary gland dysfunction and infection. Patients [should remember] the importance of maintaining optimal dental health.”
Dr. Bruce Terry is a PDA dentist. In a recent press release Terry suggested, “Let the dentist know your most recent glycosylated hemoglobin (HgA1C) level to determine how well your diabetes is controlled. A good value should be under 7 percent. Inform your dentist of any recent hypo or hyperglycemic episodes. Uncontrolled diabetics are at higher risk for complications from local anesthetics (lidocaine) as well as complications with oral surgery and even simple tooth cleanings. If you take insulin, tell your dentist when you normally take insulin and when your last dose was taken.”
Regular brushing and flossing can be very beneficial to reducing plaque and bacteria from the mouth of a diabetic. The PDA press release stated, “Diabetic patients are at greater risk for tooth decay due to the presence of higher bacteria levels found in saliva when diabetes is not under control. As diabetes can lower resistance to infection, periodontal disease can develop.”
Some may suggest that dentists through normal cleanings can detect diabetes, but the truth may be that the dentist will know better how to help you achieve proper oral health if they know more about your diabetic health. For instance higher plaque levels may indicate problems with your diabetes. PDA advises, “Though brushing and flossing removes some plaque, it can’t remove it all. If plaque isn’t removed, it hardens to form tartar, which can lead to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth.”
Having a firm handle on your health history will be meaningful to your dentist because they will know what to look for and how to treat your specific dental needs that are influenced by diabetes. Dentists will need your help to be as successful as you want them to be in oral health management. PDA offers the following advice, “Diabetic patients should contact their dentist immediately if they observe any of the warning signs of periodontal disease, including, red, swollen or tender gums or gums that bleed easily or are pulling away from the teeth; chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth; teeth that are loose or separating; pus appearing between the teeth and gums when the gums are pressed; or changes in the alignment of the teeth.”
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) offers the following suggestions for maintaining good oral health while living with diabetes.
• More than half of all adults have at least the early stages of gum disease.
• About 80% of adults have gum disease during their lives.
• If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk for gum problems. Poor blood glucose control makes gum problems more likely.
• Gum disease can start at any age. Children and teenagers who have diabetes are at greater risk than those who don’t have diabetes.
Remember, there is a lot you can do to fight gum disease.
• Learn how gum problems start.
• Brush your teeth twice a day.
• Floss your teeth every day.
• Look for early signs of gum disease.
• Visit your dentist at least twice a year.