If you have diabetes, the high content of blood sugar can affect your entire body. The disease can harm the kidneys, eyes, nerves, heart and other important systems.

Your teeth and gums are no exception.

Diabetes reduces the ability of the body to fight infection, and studies have shown that diabetics are more susceptible to the development of oral infections and periodontal (gum) disease than those who do not have diabetes.

Two major threats to oral health are dental caries, such as tooth decay and cavities, and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease (affecting the gums) is caused by bacterial infection associated with poor oral hygiene, infrequent dental visits, age, smoking, and certain medical conditions, especially diabetes.

According to the American Dental Association, approximately one-third of adults with diabetes in the United States are undiagnosed, and preventive care among these patients falls below national health objective standards. Therefore, dental professionals can play an important role in the managing care team for patients with diabetes – counseling about improving glucose regulation, maintaining oral and nutritional health, performing daily glucose monitoring tests, and seeing medical professionals for routine care.

The good news is that prevention is in your hands:

  • Make sure that your blood sugar is under control.
  • See your dentist on a regular basis and keep him or her informed of your health status.
  • Keep your mouth in good health, brushing at least twice a day – once in the morning, at night and, ideally after meals.
  • A soft-bristled toothbrush is recommended. Consider using an electric toothbrush.
  • Flossing at least once a day helps remove plaque between your teeth and under your gum line.
  • Schedule professional dental cleanings at least twice a year.

The most important task is to make sure your dentist knows that you have diabetes. Also let your dentist know if you have any other signs and symptoms, such as dry mouth, loose teeth or mouth pain.

In addition, talk with your dentist about receiving elective dental care. Short and stress- free dental procedures should be addressed.  Morning appointments should be scheduled since blood glucose levels tend to be under better control at this time of day.

If you have a scheduled appointment, eat and take your medications as directed. And remember, smoking increases the complications of gum disease. There is help to quit smoking. Your dentist or medical professional can help provide available resources.

Managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment, and that includes proper dental care. Your efforts will be rewarded with a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Dr. Mo Hishmeh, DDS is the owner of El Paseo Dental Care in Palm Desert. He practices a holistic approach to dental care and can be reached at (760) 340.9645.

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