People living with diabetes have to pay close attention to their overall health and well-being because various complications can arise from the disease. Diabetics are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and other health-threatening issues. Another complication that arises from diabetes is an increased risk for periodontal disease, an infection of the gum and bone holding teeth in place that leads to painful chewing and tooth loss. Because nearly 22% of people with diabetes develop periodontal disease, it’s important for you to have healthy oral hygiene habits.
1. CONTROL YOUR BLOOD GLUCOSE
To support your oral hygiene, maintain good blood glucose control. Unfortunately, gum disease rates increase in diabetics with poor blood glucose control. These people also get more severe gum disease than those with better control of their diabetes. Test your blood glucose regularly to determine how well your diabetes management program is working. If you have trouble controlling your blood glucose, work with your physician to alter your management program.
2. DAILY BRUSHING AND FLOSSING
Two main steps in fighting gum disease include daily brushing and flossing. Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. If you worry that you do not brush or floss correctly, ask your hygienist to show you how. Keep in mind that toothbrushes only clean one to two teeth at a time; use a timer and brush for three minutes to get a thorough clean.
Diabetics should use a brush with soft bristles and rounded ends because they are less likely to hurt your gums. Angle the brush against the gum line, and then move your brush back and forth with short strokes in a gentle, scrubbing motion. Brush all surfaces of your teeth and then the rough surface of your tongue and your gums. Also, replace your toothbrush at least every three to four months.
Daily flossing is a must for fighting gum disease because flossing removes plaque and food from between your teeth and below your gum line. Begin with 18-24 inches of floss and wind it around each middle finger, with an inch or two of floss to work with. Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
Flossing also helps you reach places you can’t with your toothbrush. When you get to your gum line with the floss, curve it around the base of each tooth to go beneath the gum line. Be careful not to snap or force the floss, which could cut or bruise your gum tissue. Also, dip your floss in mouthwash to help combat bacteria at your gum line.
3. REGULAR DENTAL CHECKUPS
People living with diabetes also should get a regular dental checkup. Every six months, hygienists will professionally clean tartar from your teeth and gum line. Plaque that is not removed by regular brushing and flossing hardens to create tartar that only professional oral cleanings can remove. Plaque especially is harmful to diabetics because it is loaded with bacteria that increases your risk for gum disease.
4. TREATMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO ALREADY HAVE POOR ORAL HYGIENE AND DENTAL ISSUES
If you have diabetes and poor oral hygiene or dental issues, work with a dentist to address your problems and prevent further damage. If you have red, sore, swollen, or bleeding gums, gums pulling away from your teeth, loose or sensitive teeth, bad breath, or dry mouth, contact a dentist immediately. She may need to remove tissue that has become infected from under the gum, or she may need to resurface damaged root surfaces to help gums reattach to teeth.
If your gum or bone loss is severe, your dentist may recommend dental implants. A recent study found that dental implants are safe for diabetics, even those with uncontrolled blood glucose levels. The study found no connection between high blood sugar and implant complications. Best of all, implants help diabetics eat healthier diets that help them control their blood glucose.
Proper oral hygiene habits are critical for people living with diabetes. You should control your blood glucose, brush and floss daily, and get regular dental checkups to ward off periodontal disease. You also should consider treatment such as dental implants if you have several dental issues.
About the author:
Lindsay loves cooking, biking and photography. She is married to her high school sweetheart and has twin girls. Her mission is aligned with that of Public Health Corps, which is to provide reputable and useful public information on health topics.