29.1 million people living in the United States have diabetes? That’s 9.3% of the population. Approximately 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed each year—and 8.1 million people living with diabetes don’t even know they have it. In Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. Both cases result in high blood sugar levels, which can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body.
Diabetes can take a toll on your mouth as well. Here’s how:
- You may have less saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry. (Dry mouth is also caused by certain medications.)
- Because saliva protects your teeth, you’re also at a higher risk of cavities.
- Gums may become inflamed and bleed often (gingivitis).
- You may have problems tasting food.
- You may experience delayed wound healing.
- You may be susceptible to infections inside of your mouth.
- For children with diabetes, teeth may erupt at an age earlier than is typical.
Dentists and Your Diabetes
Getting to the dentist regularly is critical to your diabetes. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, and even decrease the progression of the disease. Practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c. (This is a lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over the previous three months. It indicates how well you are controlling your diabetes.)
Oral health tips for diabetics
- Keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
- If you have dry mouth, try a mouthwash without alcohol.
- Brush your teeth after every meal. Wait at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing to protect any tooth enamel that’s been softened by acid in the food.
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Rinse daily with an antiseptic mouthwash.
- 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.