Dental Care and Diabetes
Day-to-Day Dental Health Care Tips
- Have your teeth and gums cleaned and checked by your dentist twice a year. (Your dentist may recommend a closer interval depending upon your condition.)
- Prevent plaque buildup on teeth by using dental floss at least once a day.
- Brush your teeth after every meal. The best time is at least 30 minutes after eating to allow remineralization of any enamel that had been softened by acid in the food. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- If you wear dentures, remove them and clean them daily. Do not sleep in them.
- If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
Antibacterial mouth rinses can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.
Myths About Diabetes and Dental Care
Are people with diabetes at greater risk for dental cavities?
There are two schools of thought on this topic. One school believes that high levels of sugar in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes helps bacteria thrive, which leads to the development of cavities as well as sets the stage for gum disease. Also, the fact that diabetic patients tend to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day may mean there is a greater chance for bacteria to grow and lead to the development of cavities. The other school of thought is that because people with diabetes are more knowledgeable about what they eat and the need to closely monitor their sugar intake, they don't eat many foods that contain cavity-causing sugar.
The fact is that people whose diabetes is well controlled have no more tooth decay or periodontal disease than persons without diabetes. Good oral hygiene and maintenance of blood sugar within the accepted range are the best protections against cavity formation and periodontal disease.
I've heard that people with diabetes can expect to loose their teeth more often and sooner than people without diabetes. Is this true?
Many factors play a role in the loss of teeth in people with diabetes. First, people with uncontrolled diabetes are more prone to the development of gingivitis and periodontal disease. If the infection persists, it can spread to the underlying bone that anchors the teeth. Complicating this situation is the fact that infections don't resolve as quickly in people with diabetes.
The good news for people with diabetes is that by practicing good dental care and oral hygiene habits -- brushing at least twice daily (or preferably after every meal) with a fluoride-containing toothpaste and flossing daily -- and by keeping blood sugar levels under control, the potential for infection from periodontal disease will be greatly reduced or eliminated as will the risk of tooth loss.
If I need oral surgery, am I more at risk for problems?