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    • 07 NOV 19
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    Tips To Protect Oral Health During National Diabetes Month

    Bowl of fruit shaped in a heart alongside a clipboard that has a stethoscope and diabetic treatment equipment laying on top of it.

    November is National Diabetes Month and reminds us that we need to take care of both our physical AND dental health. While diabetes affects numerous parts of the body, it can also increase your risk for gum disease and tooth decay due to the higher levels of glucose found in your saliva. When both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are left uncontrolled, they can wreak havoc in your mouth and prevent you from smiling confidently. Treating your diabetes with the proper medication, daily brushing and flossing your teeth and regularly meeting with the dentist for a deep cleaning will drastically decrease your likelihood of experiencing diabetic gum disease. Find out what diabetes does to oral health and how you can keep it under control with this guide!

    What To Expect With Diabetes

    One of the most common medical conditions in the United States is diabetes, and it affects millions of people each year. While many diabetic patients are able to control their condition with the professional help and medical treatment, there are millions of people who don’t even know that they have diabetes and are suffering. Diabetes affects how your body processes sugar, called glucose, which leads to weight loss, fatigue, blurry vision, slower healing, extreme thirst and/or hunger and frequent urination. While there are three main forms of diabetes, all share these common symptoms on various scales. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the inability to produce insulin, an important hormone that is essential in transferring blood sugar to your body’s cells to create energy. While Type 1 diabetes typically develops during childhood, adults can also experience it later on in life. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common as it deals with the body’s resistance to insulin. In most cases, the body stops responding to insulin, causing glucose to build up in the blood rather than in the cells. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes lead to high blood sugar levels and can cause damage to the eyes, heart and nerves. Lastly, gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women, typically near the end stages of pregnancy. While the cause behind gestational diabetes is debatable, those who develop it are typically over age 35 or have a family history involving diabetes. 

    No matter which category you may fall into, diabetes affects more than just the commonly assumed areas of the body. What most people forget is that diabetes is directly connected to oral health, and it can make a big difference in the development of tooth decay and gum disease. Bringing awareness to this subject will hopefully help diabetic patients everywhere commit to consistent oral hygiene regimens and take better care of their teeth.

    Diabetes and Oral Health

    Since diabetics have higher blood sugar levels in their bodies, they often experience weakened white blood cell production that prevents their mouths from fending off bacterial infections. Without sufficient white blood cell levels, your body will struggle to heal from cuts and tissue damage, along with having a higher likelihood of developing fungal infections, like thrush. Saliva plays a big role in this process, especially for diabetics who naturally will have increased sugar content in their saliva. The bacteria in our mouths feed off of the sugar that’s digested from our food, allowing them to grow until plaque forms on our teeth. As plaque sits on teeth, it eats away at our tooth enamel until holes, called cavities, form. This is tooth decay at its finest, but it can worsen if treatment isn’t begun quickly. While tooth decay is common, the most prevalent oral health issue that diabetics face is gum disease, which destroys the gums, bones and tissues surrounding your teeth until they loosen in your mouth. This often causes painful, bleeding gums and decreased self-confidence. Diabetics also run a higher risk of experiencing other oral health issues, like dry mouth and poor blood circulation as blood vessels thicken. All of these issues on their own create heavy complications when it comes to your oral health, but diabetes only makes these problems more severe.

    How To Protect Your Teeth From Decay

    Close up of a dental patient's mouth being cleaned with a dental tool.

    Even though you can’t predict when or if diabetes will present itself, you can take preventative measures to protect your teeth from decay beforehand. For starters, it’s always a good idea to cut down the amount of sugary foods, drinks and treats you consume, which all contribute to tooth decay. These treats are especially harmful for diabetics as they increase blood sugar levels and can make you feel unwell. Secondly, establishing a good brushing and flossing routine will be essential to combat plaque buildup and cavities. Those with diabetes already have increased amounts of sugar in their saliva, which makes plaque production skyrocket. Additionally, those who smoke have an increased risk of experiencing disease and decay, and when combined with diabetes, your oral health will suffer a lot. So if you’re a diabetic who smokes, quit smoking. This will keep your teeth stain-free, prevent oral cancer and improve blood flow to your gums. Lastly, diabetics should be meeting with their dentist for regular dental checkups at least twice a year, if not more. These checkups allow your dentist to examine your teeth for signs of gum disease, remove decay-causing plaque and ensure optimal gum, tooth and bone health. Your dentist can also advise you about what foods will be best for your oral health needs as well as give you tips for good at-home oral hygiene practices. These guidelines are a great way to protect your teeth from decay before it develops, especially as you’re acclimating to life with diabetes.

    Develop a Healthier Smile With Our Help!

    If you’re a diabetic and experiencing dental health issues, call Dr. Evanson at (720) 409-0008 to schedule an evaluation. It can be difficult to establish a good oral health regimen when navigating a diabetes diagnosis, but we can help you as you seek to improve your health. Call our office today to get your oral health back on track!

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