According to a 2018 report by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the number of Arizonans diagnosed with diabetes jumped 10% from 2011 to 2016. AZDHS estimates nearly 600,000 adults with diabetes live in Arizona, many of whom are unaware of that diabetics are at higher risk for various secondary complications, including gum disease.
Why People With Diabetes Are More Prone to Dental Problems
Dental health and overall health are tightly intertwined. Bacteria in the mouth are sticky and soft; they naturally form a substance we call plaque. When plaque builds up on the teeth and along the gum line, it becomes hard. Hard plaque is called tartar, and it can only be removed by a dentist with a special tool. Thankfully, that process isn’t painful. But, when you don’t see the dentist and the tartar is left alone, it repeatedly irritates the gums and tissue. This can easily lead to infection in your gums, and diabetics are more prone because of their weakened immune health. If you are diabetic, you are more prone to infections in general for this reason.
In addition, many diabetics have dry mouth. Saliva is nature’s mouthwash, rinsing teeth and washing away bacteria that causes cavities.
Periodontal disease, the most severe form of gum disease, is the most common dental disease affecting diabetics and shouldn’t be ignored – it can lead to further overall health complications and the loss of natural teeth. Nearly 22% of diabetics have periodontal disease, according to the American Dental Association.
- You may experience a dry mouth from less production of saliva.
- Since saliva protects teeth, dry mouth makes your risk for cavities higher.
- Gum disease is common among dental patients with diabetes, which creates swelling, sensitivity, and irritation along the gums.
- Your taste buds may not work as well.
- Wounds or mouth sores may have delayed healing.
- This makes you more prone to infections inside the mouth.
- Children with diabetes can have teeth erupt earlier than is typical.
How To Care For Your Teeth If You Have Diabetes
If you have diabetes, it’s important to visit the dentist regularly for your preventive exams and cleanings. Your dentist can help you watch out for the warning signs of decreased dental health and diabetes. These include a change in saliva, a red or swollen palate, changes in the texture of the tongue, loose teeth, colored deposits on the teeth, or signs of cavities forming. Because regular dental cleanings can play an important role in managing the effects of diabetes on teeth and gums, Delta Dental of Arizona offers a third cleaning benefit to diabetics.
Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in diabetics. For this reason, your dentist might recommend replacing a regular cleaning for a deep cleaning. These deep cleanings could help lower your blood sugar levels (as measured by the HbA1c test)
Other tips for keeping your oral health and overall health in check if you have diabetes include:
- Eating a balanced, low-sugar diet. If you’re craving something sweet, try our frozen banana ice cream recipe!
- Avoiding smoking. Need to quit? Check out these 5 tips to help you stop smoking.
- Cleaning your dentures, retainer or mouthguard daily. Check out these tips for cleaning retainers and other dental devices.
- Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Flossing daily to clean between your teeth.