Dental health for diabetics

Keep your smile healthy with these simple tips.

Did you know that people who are diabetic are three times more likely to develop periodontal disease as people without diabetes?

Taking care of your teeth is more important than just making sure you have the whitest smile. The health of your teeth can be an indication of your overall health. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing gum disease as well as other oral problems including fungal infections.

For those with diabetes, it’s a two edged sword: Diabetes can make your gum disease worse and having gum disease can make your diabetes worse. Keeping your diabetes under good control by planning and eating meals that are within your diabetes meal guidelines and staying physically active are the first steps toward good oral health. Be sure that your dentist and dental hygienist know that you have diabetes and what medications, if any you may be taking.

There are three main steps that everyone, including those with diabetes, need to take in order to protect their healthy teeth and gums. To lower your risk of developing gum disease you should:

  • Brush regularly. At the minimum, brushing should be done in the morning and before going to bed. Ideally brushing should be done after each meal or snack that is eaten.
  • Flossing. Teeth need to be flossed daily to remove food particles that lead to the development of plaque. If flossing isn’t done, plaque can lead to the build-up of tartar which is the beginning stage of gingivitis—gum disease.
  • Visit your dentist. Everyone needs to keep regular dental appointments every six months.

In addition, those with diabetes need to maintain good control of their blood sugar, which is the cornerstone of good diabetes management. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to a decreased ability to fight off bacterial infections, resulting not only in an increased risk for gum diseases but for other diseases in general.

Monitor your daily diet to make sure that you are including fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C as part of your meal plans. Vitamin C will help keep your gums healthy and can be found in fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries and kiwi and vegetables like peppers, cabbage and all kinds of greens including spinach, broccoli and kale. If you’re not sure what to eat, Michigan State University Extension offers diabetes prevention and management programs including Diabetes PATH and Dining with Diabetes. You may also contact your local hospital for an appointment with a dietician.

So keep smiling every time you follow these steps, knowing that not only are you keeping your mouth healthy but you’re keeping better control of your diabetes too.

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