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Diabetes and Dental Health

As with the sufferers of many health conditions, individuals who have diabetes must contend with numerous potential complications. If you’re a diabetic, you already know that you need to keep your blood glucose at the proper level in order to keep your diabetes under control and avoid complications that can be associated with your condition. What you may not realize, however, is that one of those complications can be dental health problems. In recent years, research has shown that poorly controlled diabetes can be linked to a greater risk of developing serious oral health problems such as gum disease and lost teeth. Diabetics are now shown to be more likely to develop these dental health problems than are non-diabetics. By the same token, dental health conditions such as gum disease are also associated with developing diabetes. Top dentists want both diabetics and non-diabetics to learn more about the link between oral health and diabetes.

What can happen

More than 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes. For these individuals, it’s important to know that maintaining proper glucose levels is vital for their health, not just the health of vital organs such as the heart and kidneys, but also for their teeth and surrounding structures. Because diabetes recently has been associated with such oral health conditions as oral thrush, mouth sores, cavities, gum disease, and mouth ulcers, it’s more important than ever for diabetics to take the necessary steps to keep their blood glucose levels in check. One of the reasons for the association between diabetes and oral health problems such as gum disease is that diabetics typically are more susceptible to developing bacterial infection, the main component in many forms of dental health problems. Additionally, diabetics have a decreased ability to fight off the bacteria involved in many oral diseases, especially those that invade gums.

What you can do

According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health, good oral health is an integral part of good overall health. Recent studies have shown that poor oral health is related to such conditions as heart disease and stroke, and now studies are showing that it’s also related to poorly controlled diabetes. Part of the good news for diabetics is that there are actions they can take that can prevent their diabetes from causing dental problems. The other part of that good news for diabetics is that controlling their diabetes will not only help their teeth and mouths to remain healthy; it will also help to stave off any other complications that could result from diabetes.

Naturally, the first and most important step is to control blood glucose levels. As a diabetic, you already know what you have to do in order to control your diabetes, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate such vital information. Control your diabetes by eating a healthy diet, staying active, taking your medications, checking your feet routinely for sores and blisters that weren’t there before, quitting smoking, seeing your doctor regularly, and doing all the other things your doctor recommends. And, now that you know that poorly controlled diabetes can be linked to oral health conditions, be sure to maintain a good oral health routine.

What’s in a good oral health routine

As a diabetic, you are more susceptible to oral health problems. That means it’s especially important for you to maintain proper care of your teeth, gums, and all the surrounding structures in your mouth. First, be sure to maintain a good dental hygiene routine that includes twice-daily brushing, once-daily flossing, and regular checkups with your family dentist. Additionally, it’s very important, if you’re a smoker, to quit smoking, as smoking not only makes gum disease worse because it causes more bad bacteria in the mouth, but it also lowers your immune system’s ability to fight disease. And, since many diabetics take regular medications that can cause dry mouth, it’s extra important that they maintain good oral health because dry mouth can lead to bacteria buildup in the mouth that can then lead to gum disease and other diseases of the mouth. Finally, check your mouth on a regular basis for any changes, including sores, dryness, and white patches, and report these and other oral health issues such as a chronic bad taste in your mouth to your dentist. And, if you don’t already have one, contact a top dentist in your area to schedule a consultation. Be sure to mention your diabetes and have a dialogue with your dentist regarding additional steps you can take to keep your mouth healthy for life.

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