Make these tips part of your routine to manage your diabetes alongside your oral health.
While it's not always the first thing that comes to mind when you consider managing the condition, diabetes and oral care share an important connection. Checking your blood sugar and taking your medication are routine elements of your diabetes care, but what about brushing your teeth?
As a person living with diabetes, it's important to keep a clean mouth and bill of health to keep infections and gum disease at bay. Here are some oral care tips that will help your smile shine.
The best place to start with oral health and diabetes is blood sugar management—keeping your levels within the range that you and your doctor have determined is best for your health. Elevated blood glucose levels increase the risk of infection, so managing your diabetes will help minimize the possibility of a dangerous infection in the gums or jaw. Blood glucose levels that are out of range can cause dry mouth, making cavities more likely and potentially increasing your risk of infection.
Look for a toothbrush with soft bristles that's less likely to hurt your gums. While it's important to be thorough in your brushing, short strokes in a gentle, scrubbing motion will help lessen the chance of creating any abrasions where bacteria can cause an infection. After brushing, flossing can help to clear away plaque and food debris from between the teeth and below the gum line. Thorough cleaning of your teeth at least twice a day can help lower your risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease.
When you smile at yourself in the mirror, take a second to look around and see if there are any changes in your teeth or gum line. If you notice something that seems out of the ordinary, like bleeding or inflammation, or you're experiencing discomfort, call your dentist to get any potential tooth trouble handled right away.
The easiest way to stay on top of your diabetes dental care is to see a dentist every six months for a check-up. Regularly scheduled dental cleanings and exams support a healthy mouth and also give you the opportunity to build a relationship with your dentist and hygienist. These care providers are important allies in safely managing your diabetes and preventing the progression of any issues that may arise. The earlier a potential issue is spotted, the better the options are to treat it. Your dental office may also be able to recommend the best oral care tools for your specific needs, including specialty mouthwash or a water flosser.
Be sure to communicate with your dentist about your diabetes management. Increased frequency of cleanings or exams is typically based on comfort level, health status, and additional risk factors, so ask your dentist if coming in for quarterly cleanings may be beneficial for you.
By Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC
WebMD, Dental Problems and Diabetes
American Diabetes Association, Oral Health and Hygiene
American Diabetes Association, More on the Mouth
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.