Brushing Up on Oral Care in Patients with Diabetes

Brushing Up on Oral Care in Patients with Diabetes

oralcareMost patients who have diabetes may be aware that they are at an increased risk for developing complications with diabetes, including problems with their kidneys, heart and eyes. However, many are not aware that uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to problems within their mouth. As a matter of fact, approximately95 percent of Americans who have diabetes also have some form of periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease can affect your gums and teeth. Having diabetes increased your risk of developing problems with your oral health because you may be more susceptible to having oral infections and dry mouth.


Short-term Oral Health Problems

Diabetes can increase your risk of developing short-term problems such as thrush, ulcers, and cavities. Thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is an infection of the mouth caused by a yeast known as Candida. High levels of sugar create a good environment for the growth of yeasts like Candida.Fighting off these infections may be more difficult. The most common symptom of thrush is white colored patches on the tongue, lips, and cheeks. The American Diabetes Association recommends you can avoid and control thrush by glycemic control, practicing clean oral hygiene, avoid smoking, and if you wear them, remove and clean dentures daily.

Having diabetes makes you more susceptible to developing cavities. When starches and sugars from the food and beverages consumed interact with the natural bacteria found within our mouths, plaque forms on the surface of our teeth.  Acids from the plaque wear away at the enamel of our teeth, causing cavities. Similar to thrush, higher concentrations of sugar in our mouth can lead to more plaque formation.  Good blood glucose control, combined with good oral hygiene, rids our mouths of plaque and can help prevent cavities.

Long-term Oral Health Problems

Research continues to show that uncontrolled blood sugar levels over long periods of time, combined with poor oral hygiene, can lead to a more serious oral health complication called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria in dental plaque. An early and common form of periodontal disease is gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is a reversible problem that can be improved by good blood glucose control and regular brushing and flossing of your teeth. A more serious form of periodontal disease is periodontitis. Periodontitis is swelling around the tooth or teeth that damages the soft tissue and bone.  This can cause irreversible damage to the structure of the teeth. Smoking can also increases the chance of gum disease. Smoking causes a hardened form of plaque to develop on your teeth, making your gums more prone to damage, infection, and eventually periodontitis. Periodontitis can be prevented by glycemic control, clean oral hygiene, and by quitting smoking.

Maintaining Oral Health

Maintaining good oral hygiene is just as important for oral health as controlling your blood sugars. Below are some simple ways to reduce your risk of oral health problems and recommendations by the American Diabetes Association:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal, at least twice daily for 2 minutes.
  • Floss at least once daily
  • Swish with mouthwash
    • If experiencing dry mouth, use mouthwash without alcohol.
  • Use toothbrushes with softer bristles to protect teeth enamel
  • Clean dentures daily
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about quitting smoking
  • Schedule an appointment with your dentist at least every 6 months.

Uncontrolled blood sugars can harm your mouth.  Aside from good control of your diabetes, practicing clean oral hygiene will help prevent thrush, tooth decay and more serious long-term oral health problems associated with diabetes.

This Article is Brought to you By Our Guest Staff Writers:
Joseph Calzaretta, PharmD Candidate 2016‎
Damian Bialonczyk, PharmD, MBA Fellow, MCPHS University‎
Jennifer Goldman, PharmD, CDE, BC-ADM, FCCP‎ Clinical Pharmacist, Well Life Medical

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