Dental Care for Diabetics
Diabetes is a common condition in the US, with more than 37 million Americans having some form of diabetes – that’s 1 in 10. One thing diabetics should be especially careful about is their oral care, as diabetes can contribute to tooth decay and weaken your body’s ability to fight off infection. In fact, 20% of total tooth loss cases can be linked to diabetes.
Dr. Cary Berdy recently appeared on WJXT to discuss this topic. Continue reading to learn more:
Oral Health Ricks for Diabetics
For those with diabetes, dental health issues can arise more easily, or become easily exacerbated by the effects of their condition. One reason for this is that high blood sugar can weaken white blood cells. White blood cells are everyone’s main way to fight infections, including those in the mouth. So not only do infections take longer to heal for diabetics, but diabetic patients are at greater risk for:
- thrush, which causes a fungus to grow in the mouth
- dry mouth
- inflamed and bleeding gums. In fact, those with diabetes are two to three times more likely to develop gum disease.
Some studies – like one out of the Boston University School of Dental Medicine- actually show a reciprocal relationship between diabetes and gum disease. If diabetes is kept under control, there are less issues with the mouth and when periodontal disease is treated effectively, the need for insulin can be reduced.
How Diabetics Can Keep Their Oral Health in Check
Taking care of your oral health should be a priority for anyone with a smile, but for diabetics, this becomes even more important.
One thing diabetics must consider is that if sugar level is high in the blood, it’s high in the saliva as well. Bacteria in plaque thrives on sugar, so the less it is controlled, the more likely diabetics are to experience tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease and even tooth loss if it is not treated accordingly. So, when diabetics manage their blood sugar levels suitably, they’ll be rewarded with a far lower chance of these complications.
Diabetics – and anyone who wants to better care for their teeth – should be focused on preventative care and maintenance, beginning with an oral care regimen that falls in line with the American Dental Association guidelines including:
- Brushing with an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste to reduce germs every morning and night
- Flossing at least daily to remove hidden plaque and germs
- Using mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
Two other things that Berdy Dental tells all our patients, but to diabetics in particular, are to:
- Quit smoking – it not only increases the risk of gum disease, but can also cause diabetes to worsen
- Snack smart – choose teeth healthy foods (such fresh fruits and veggies). Diabetics should be careful to choose fruits that don’t have lower glycemic indexes. So things like berries and apples instead of bananas, watermelon, canned or dried fruits.
Having the discipline to stick to this oral care routine and the accountability to schedule the recommended two dentist checkups per year will help tremendously in keeping diabetes under control and limiting the risk of oral and overall health complications.
Dental Treatment Options for Diabetics
Those with diabetes often require more extensive treatment than those without, depending on the issue they’re affected by.
With any type of gum disease found, some form of periodontitis treatment will be necessary to thoroughly clean the pockets around teeth and prevent damage to surrounding bone. At Berdy Dental Group, we always look for the least invasive way to do so, depending upon each patient’s oral issues and risk factors. This is especially important when it comes to diabetics, who often have healing issues.
One of the most common, non-surgical procedures we use is a combination of scaling and root planing, which removes bacteria, plaque and tartar with the goal of halting the progress of gum disease.
- Scaling: removes plaque and tartar (dental calculus) from the tooth surface.
- Root Planing: This involves cleaning the roots of the teeth by smoothing the root to remove bacterial toxins.
If there’s a lot of infection, sometimes this is followed by an antibiotic treatment for periodontal disease. We use a special powder form of antibiotic and place it inside infected periodontal pockets, then microspheres release the antibiotic medication gradually, actively fighting periodontal disease for 30 days.
There are also a variety of surgical options available for those with more advanced periodontitis. However, the preventative care outlined here for diabetic and traditional patients, if followed, will keep the need for surgery away. The key is to be aware of redness, swelling or sensitivity, and to catch those problems early, so they can be properly treated.