Preventive Dental Care and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes and Preventive Dental Care

The American Diabetes Association states that having Type 2 Diabetes makes it more likely that you will have dental problems because you are at a higher risk of gum infection. It’s your high blood sugar that takes its toll on your entire body.

The fact is the higher your blood sugar level is the higher your risk of:

  • Tooth decay and cavities. There are many types of bacteria in your mouth. When starches and sugars in food and beverages interact with these bacteria, a sticky film of plaque forms on your teeth. The acids in plaque attack the hard, outer surface of your teeth (your enamel). This can lead to cavities. The problem is the higher your blood sugar level, the greater the supply of sugars and starches and the more acid wearing away at your teeth.
  • Gingivitis or early gum disease. Not only does your high blood sugar attack your teeth, diabetes 2 reduces your ability to fight bacteria which causes more plaque to build up on your teeth. When you don’t remove plaque with brushing and flossing, it hardens under your gum line into what is called tartar. The longer the tartar and plaque remain on your teeth, the more they irritate the gingival – the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. When your gums become swollen and bleed easily you have gingivitis.
  • Advance gum disease or periodontitis.  If you leave gingivitis untreated it can lead to more serious infection called periodontitis. Periodontitis tends to be more severe among people who are Type 2 Diabetes because it may cause your blood sugar to rise making your diabetes even harder to control.

To prevent damage to your teeth and gums, do everything you can to control your diabetes and take dental care seriously. These are some of the steps you may take to care for your teeth:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Ideally, brush in the morning and at night after meals and snacks. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride to prevent cavities. Consider using an electric toothbrush if that makes it easier for you to brush your teeth.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day. Some dentists recommend flossing after each meal. Flossing helps remove plaque between your teeth and under your gum line. The waxed variety of floss makes it easier to get between the teeth.
  • Regular dental cleanings at least every 6 months. Visit your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings. It wouldn’t hurt to remind your dentist and hygienist that you have diabetes. To prevent low blood sugar during dental work, you may want to eat before your dental visit.
  • Look for signs of early gum disease and report them to your dentist.  Don’t wait for the 6 months to pass. Also let your dentist know if you have other signs such as loose teeth or mouth pain.

Resources: NIDCR National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIH)

American Diabetes Association

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