November is National Diabetes Month, an important time to raise awareness about treatment and prevention of diabetes. Concurrent with a list of symptoms, diabetics are twice as likely to develop gum disease and lose teeth.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion annually.
“A little known fact is that numerous illnesses show symptoms in the mouth first; and life-threatening diseases like heart disease, stroke and kidney disease are all connected to poor oral health,” says Dr. Leslie Townsend, Regional Dental Director for Jefferson Dental Clinics “Without control, diabetes patients risk serious long-term effects on their whole health.”
Two main factors cause tremendous oral health impacts on diabetic mouths: blood glucose levels and reduced ability to fight infection.
Uncontrolled diabetes results in high glucose levels in the saliva. Elevated blood sugar levels fuel the bacteria that produces acid that erodes tooth enamel. Diabetes also causes reduced ability to fight infection and increased levels of inflammation in the body, both of which affect the gums and soft tissues of the mouth. As a result, those with inadequate blood sugar control develop periodontal disease more frequently and severely, and lose more teeth due to inability to fight infection.
How to prevent dental problems associated with diabetes
• Monitor signs of gum disease, which include: red, swollen and tender gums; bleeding gums; receding gum line; persistent bad breath; bad taste in the mouth, pus between the teeth and gums; shifting teeth or change in how teeth fit together when you bite; changes in how partial dentures fit.
• Keep up with your daily oral health routine, including: Twice daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash.
• Visit your dentist every six months for a regular exam, x-rays and cleaning, or immediately if you notice signs of gum disease. This is a time to screen for potential issues, as well as talk to your dentist about how to control the oral effects of diabetes.
• Monitor and control your blood sugar. A controlled blood sugar helps regulate the sugar in the mouth, thereby reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum infections.
• Stay hydrated. Diabetes can impair the salivary functions of the mouth, allowing bacteria to grow uncontrolled for a longer period.
In conclusion, good oral health is integral for maintaining good health overall. Your dentist can be a life line in detecting and controlling fatal diseases and their outcomes, before it’s too late.
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