Diabetes is common in North America, so chances are that you or someone you know has this condition. Please keep reading today’s guest article by Darla Scheidt, the Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, for a thorough review on the subject and some tips on how diabetics can prevent tooth loss.
If you have diabetes, then you are already familiar with the serious consequences high blood sugar can have on your overall health. Among the list of complications, emerging research is showing that diabetes causes tooth loss as well. In fact, people with diabetes are more than twice as likely to lose all of their teeth as people without diabetes. Tooth loss can lead to many problems for diabetics, including pain, chewing and speaking difficulties, and poor self-esteem.
The good news is that a little prevention goes a long way to control your diabetes and keep dental issues at bay. Here’s why tooth loss is prevalent among diabetics and what you can do to prevent oral health issues if you have diabetes:
Link Between Tooth Loss and Diabetes
While further research is needed, one reason diabetics experience tooth loss is because of gum disease — the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. Poorly managed diabetes weakens the body’s ability to fight infection. That, along with a slow healing process, puts diabetics at a higher risk for gum disease. Conversely, gum disease elevates the level of glucose in the blood, which makes it more difficult to control blood sugar levels and contributes to the progression of diabetes.
There are two common forms of gum disease: The first is called gingivitis, a mild inflammation of the gum tissues. Bacteria in plaque accumulate on the teeth and along the gum line, which causes the gums to become inflamed. This early stage of gum disease is reversible and very treatable with proper brushing and flossing.
The more serious form of gum disease is called periodontitis. During this advanced stage, the gums become more inflamed, and the tissue and bone that support the teeth begin to gradually deteriorate. As the disease progresses, gums start to detach from the tooth, eventually causing teeth to become loose and fall out.
Avoiding Gum Disease and Tooth Loss with Diabetes
Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you are destined to tooth loss. Your best defense against gum disease is managing your diabetes through excellent oral hygiene care, healthy diet, exercise and regular visits with your doctor and dentist. Protect your smile from oral health problems and tooth loss by:
- Keeping your diabetes under control. First and foremost, it is imperative that you learn how to manage high blood sugar. By following your physician’s instructions for diet, medication and diabetes management, you can reduce the risk of developing gum disease and losing teeth.
- Practicing excellent oral hygiene at home. This includes brushing teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing between the teeth daily to remove plaque that causes gum disease.
- Talking to your dentist about diabetes. It is important that your dentist is aware of your condition in order to provide optimal care. Ask your dentist about prescription strength anti-microbial mouth rinse to help protect your gums from gingivitis and promote healthy mouth tissues.
- Notifying your dentist immediately of early gum disease symptoms. Visit your dentist as soon as you suspect signs of an infection. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. Signs of gum disease include:
- Red, swollen gums that are tender.
- Gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing.
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth.
- Chronic bad breath.
- Loose teeth or teeth moving away from one another.
- Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite.
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures or bridges.
- Visiting your dentist for cleanings and routine exams. Gum disease progresses slowly and often without any warning signs. That is why it is critical to see your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams.
- Avoiding tobacco product use. Smoking and other tobacco products increase the risk of gum disease.
Bottom line: Diabetics are at a higher risk for tooth loss than those without diabetes. Fortunately, having diabetes doesn’t set you up for a toothless smile. Healthy management of diabetes, including diligent oral hygiene, healthy diet and routine dental visits, plays a key role in a diabetic’s overall health. With proper care, you can keep your natural teeth healthy for a lifetime.
About the Author
Darla Scheidt is the Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, a successful multi-office, multi-specialty group dental practice in the Chicago western suburbs. With four offices, over 30 doctors and having been in practice for over 40 years, Grove Dental stays on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.