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How Oral Hygiene and Diabetes… and Why You Should Care

(This article was contributed by a free-lance writer, Kelly Coleman, which had also provided us lately an article on our Blogpage.)

If you know anything about diabetes, you are probably aware that there are two types: type 1 (or juvenile-onset) and type 2. You likely know that both forms of the disease affect the body’s ability to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. You may know someone who suffers from high blood sugar, characterized by symptoms such as exhaustion, extreme thirst, and excessive urination. Or you may have witnessed someone go through a low blood sugar incident in which the person experiences increased heart rate, chills, or confusion.

What you may not know, however, are the myriad ways, diabetes can affect other parts of the body and how they function. For example, poorly controlled blood sugar over time can lead to complications known as retinopathy and neuropathy. These conditions can affect blood flow to both the eyes and extremities, respectively, leading to blindness or even limb loss. Furthermore, people with diabetes can develop ketoacidosis, a complication that increases the acidity of the blood. It can also affect a person’s kidneys, skin, hearing, heart, and mental acuity.

In actuality, diabetes is a disease that affects nearly every system in the body, including your teeth and gums. Increased sugar in the bloodstream (and other factors) leads to a higher prevalence of gum disease in diabetics. Gum disease impacts almost 22 percent of those diagnosed with the disease and, like any infection, it can even cause increased blood sugar. Diabetics may also suffer from dry mouth or thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth. That’s why it’s so important for people with diabetes to practice good oral hygiene.

According to the American Dental Association, the right combination of self care and professional intervention can help a diabetic maintain good mouth health and slow the progression of diabetes. They suggest the following steps:

● Control blood sugar levels by properly using your diabetes-related medications, eating well, and exercising.
● Stop smoking.
● Clean dentures every day.
● Brush twice a day, and floss daily.
● Get regular check ups from your dentist.

You should also check your mouth regularly for signs of disease and infection. Per the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, problems like bleeding gums, dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth should be discussed with your dentist as soon as possible. If not properly addressed or cared for, seemingly minor dental problems can lead to jaw or bone decay, as well as tooth loss.

For diabetics who are already experiencing dental health issues that have led to tooth loss, reconstructive dental surgery in the form of dental implants may be an option. In addition to repairing the smile by replacing missing teeth, implants offer additional benefits like comfort and ease of care. Furthermore the artificial teeth, held to the jaw with a screw, actually help rebuild the jawbone.

For long-time diabetics or those who have experienced severe tooth decay or loss of multiple teeth, dentures are another option. Diabetics with dentures must still maintain good oral hygiene, cleaning their dentures and mouth daily to remove particles of food and prevent infection. They should also still visit their dentist once a year to check gum health and ensure a comfortable fit.

For diabetics, the benefits of good dental health go beyond a pretty smile. There is no doubt that diabetes and dental health are connected, but many doctors and dentists only mention the impact one has upon the other in passing. It is up to you, the diabetic patient, to be proactive by educating yourself and pursuing impeccable oral hygiene. As a result, you will be happier and healthier… and that’s something to smile about.

by Kelly Coleman

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One response to “How Oral Hygiene and Diabetes… and Why You Should Care”

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