Diabetes and Gum Disease: Causes and Prevention Tips
Understanding the Connection Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

Managing diabetes is crucial for the health of your entire body—and the mouth is no exception. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing early stages of periodontal (gum) disease. Understanding this and taking extra care of your teeth & gums can help those with diabetes be less likely to develop oral complications that can lead to bleeding gums and tooth decay.

THE LINK BETWEEN DIABETES AND GUM DISEASE

High blood sugar is the primary link between diabetes and gum disease. Uncontrolled diabetes is harmful to your oral health because diabetes weakens white blood cells. Those white blood cells are the primary defense against bacterial infections. Given that there are literally billions of germs in your mouth on any given day, maintaining your body’s natural lines of defense can keep a mild case of gingivitis from becoming a serious oral health issue.

ORAL HEALTH RISKS RELATED TO DIABETES

1. Gum Disease

Diabetes can reduce blood flow to the gums, making it harder for bleeding gums to heal after an infection. That’s because diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken, which slows the flow of nutrients and waste products from the gums. Not only are people with diabetes more likely to experience gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, those oral health issues are likely to be more severe and take extra time to heal.

2. Dry Mouth

Saliva is often underappreciated, at least until you realize you don’t have enough of it. Normally, saliva is one important way your mouth stays healthy by helping to flush out oral bacteria.

3 . Increased Saliva Glucose

High blood sugar may lead to increased glucose levels in saliva. Why is that a problem? Streptococcus mutans is an oral bacteria that loves sugar—and when it eats sugar, it releases acids that strip away the protective outer enamel layer of teeth. The result? Tooth decay.

4. Thrush

When a dry mouth meets increased levels of glucose saliva, the result can be a fungal infection called thrush. Thrush causes painful white splotches to develop inside your mouth. It’s caused by the candida fungus, which takes advantage of a patient’s compromised immune system.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP REDUCE YOUR RISK OF GUM DISEASE

Luckily, the effects of diabetes on oral health can be managed. Following an oral care routine and making certain lifestyle changes can prevent serious periodontal issues from arising. Here’s what you can do:

1. Control Your Blood Sugar

A good glycosylated hemoglobin (HgA1C) level is generally under 7%.

2. Don’t Smoke

If you have diabetes, smoking means you’re up to 20 times more likely to develop thrush and periodontal disease.

3. Help Your Doctor and Dentist Communicate

Make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes and has your doctor’s contact information. Talk to your doctor before scheduling oral surgery or other major dental procedures.

4. Brush, Swish and Floss

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth after every meal, use an antiseptic mouthwash twice a day, and clean between your teeth daily. Ask your dentist if they recommend other oral hygiene aides, such as rinsing. Using an antiseptic mouthwash like LISTERINE® Cool Mint can help prevent and reduce gingivitis.

5. Clean Your Dentures

If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them every day for a thorough cleaning.

6. Visit Your Dentist

Schedule a checkup and cleaning every six months (or as recommended by your dentist). Dental cleanings help to remove tartar buildup under the gums and plaque that you can’t clean at home.

THE TAKEAWAY

While uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious health complications, adopting an oral care routine that includes brushing, flossing, using an antiseptic mouthwash, getting professional cleanings, and managing blood sugar levels can help to reduce the risk of oral infection.

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