Diabetes has become a rapidly growing disease in recent times partly due to our poor lifestyle choices. This disease has many consequences in the body including on oral health.
Poorly controlled diabetes may cause:
- Increased oral infections because blood supply to the gums may be reduced if the blood vessels are compromised. High blood sugar levels over time will accelerate any gum disease you may have, and also compromise your immune system. This means that your body will not be able to fight off the infection easily.
Fungal infections are also more common, in part due to the compromised immune system but also by the dry mouth that is often associated with diabetes.
- A dry mouth is a common symptom of diabetes. This lack of saliva production encourages bacterial growth that will increase tartar build-up and encourage gum disease. Over time and without the proper treatment, gum disease can progress to more severe periodontitis. This type of infection takes a long time to treat. In severe cases, it can cause tooth loss.
- Bad breath (halitosis) may also be a symptom due to the dry mouth and gum infections.
What can you do?
- Controlling your blood sugar levels is key to great oral health if you have diabetes. Ensure you’re taking the correct medications and dosages that your doctor has prescribed and make regular doctor’s appointments to ensure the medication dosages don’t need to be adjusted. This will help you prevent all the possible complications of diabetes on your dental health, like gum disease.
- Develop great daily oral hygiene habits. This includes:
- Brushing your teeth at least two times daily. Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoridated toothpaste to gently brush your teeth in a circular motion. Fluoride will keep the teeth strong and protect against tooth decay. Prevent brushing too hard as this may cause irritated gums. If you have snacked on particularly sticky foods, clean your teeth immediately after, if possible. Some dentists advise using an electric toothbrush which does most of the brushing for you. Remember to change the brush head regularly to ensure your teeth are being cleaned properly.
- Use floss to clean food debris from the hard-to-reach areas. There are many commercially available products that can make flossing easy, like the waxed varieties and the various types of flossing devices.
- Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and to clean your teeth professionally. Your dentist will be alerted to any dental problems before they become serious.
- It is very important that your dentist knows you are a diabetic so that they can be on the lookout for any complications. Remind them at every visit of this. Be sure to mention any irregular symptoms that you may be experiencing like xerostomia (dry mouth), a tooth that may feel loose or any oral pain. Your dentist needs to be aware of your diabetes because he may prescribe some medications that may interfere with your diabetic medications.
- Examine your mouth regularly for signs of inflammation like redness, gums that are bleeding and swelling. Make a dental appointment if you notice any of this.
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet as directed by your doctor or dietician. A good diet will help you to control your blood sugar levels together with your prescribed medicines. Cut out sugary snacks and carbonated drinks which will help control your blood sugar levels and prevent tooth decay.
Ensure you adopt a healthy lifestyle which includes giving up smoking. Smoking increases the numerous problems of diabetes, like gingivitis. Seek advice on how to stop smoking if required.
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Dr. Nabil Mockbil received his DDS in 2001 from Umea University in Sweden, regarded as having the best dentist programme in Sweden for undergraduates. He’s now the founder of Swedish Dental Clinic in Dubai