Did you know that November is National Diabetes month? If you’re wondering what diabetes has to do with oral health, you might be surprised to know that the answer is a lot! In fact, diabetics are much more prone to developing oral health issues, including cavities, gum disease, infections and dry mouth. That’s why it’s so important to pay special attention to your daily oral hygiene routine if you are diabetic, visit your dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings and oral exams, and make sure to tell your dentist if you have diabetes.
Why Diabetics Experience Oral Health Problems
Generally speaking, people with diabetes that is not kept under control have more bacteria in their saliva than those without the disease. That higher level of bacteria makes it more likely that they’ll develop tooth decay. And because diabetics aren’t able to fight off infection as well as non-diabetics, they are more likely to develop gum disease. Many diabetic patients also suffer from chronic dry mouth. That also makes it more likely that they will develop tooth decay and gum disease. And although we all have naturally occurring bacteria, fungi and viruses inside our mouths, diabetics have a higher incidence of a fungal infection called oral candidiasis. Smoking makes this problem even worse.
Steps Diabetics Can Take to Improve Oral Health
Fortunately, there are steps that diabetic patients can take to improve the health of their teeth and gums. They include the following:
- Keep the diabetes under control. The better the diabetes is managed, the less prone you’ll be to developing oral health issues.
- Manage dry mouth by chewing on sugarless gum, drinking water frequently, or using a saliva substitute that is prescribed by your dentist.
- Maintain a daily oral hygiene routine. Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day to remove as much bacteria as possible. Remember to use a fluoride toothpaste, and rinse at least once a day with an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year for routine checkups and cleanings. Many dentists recommend that diabetics visit more often, so follow your dentist’s recommendations.
The relationship between diabetes and oral health is complicated and profound. If you neglect to manage your diabetes, your oral health will likely decline. And, similarly, letting your oral health decline will have a negative impact on your diabetes. But if you follow these tips, you’ll enjoy not only good oral health, but good overall health as well.