Question: How should a person with diabetes care for their oral hygiene?
A close relative has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, but was in poor health for some time before that. I’ve had diabetes for many years and have had a ton of dental troubles.
There are many reasons to take good care of our mouths, teeth and gums. The link between oral health and overall health is greater than you may think. However it is never too late to start taking better care.
With diabetes spreading like a wildfire, this is an important question and the right answer can allow any patient with concerns to save their teeth and to improve one’s health overall. Thanks for the question.
I know that lots of persons with diabetes have major problems with losing their teeth, but that does not have to be the outcome. Habits can make us or break us. “Always have” does not mean “always will.” We can change and improve and love the outcome!
With any change in our lives, we’ll need to change also — fighting the change makes us victims in the end. So, I say to you, set aside all that you thought and did before and let’s start over. Change is certain. Embrace it!
Diabetes increases the risk of gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth and a variety of oral infections. Certainly, poor mouth care makes diabetes more difficult to control, as infections will cause blood sugar to rise and require even more insulin to control. More insulin in the blood stream causes additional problems.
Whatever mouth care you thought before was good enough, now you’ll need to ramp it up and make additional efforts to save your teeth and to improve your health. Practice excellent oral hygiene every day. Brushing and flossing, your first line of defense, may need to be increased to three times each day or more.
The mouth naturally has many thousands of bacteria, and some not good. Frequent brushing, rinsing and flossing will keep bad bacteria under control. Healthy saliva is the defense against bacteria and viruses, because saliva contains enzymes that destroy some of the bad bacteria. However, harmful bacteria can sometimes grow out of control and lead to a serious gum infection.
When gums are healthy, bacteria in your mouth usually can’t enter the bloodstream. Poor diet, however, changes the chemistry of saliva — allowing bacteria a port of entry into the bloodstream. Also, invasive dental treatments can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. For many years we’ve known that bacteria and inflammation in the mouth are linked to health problems in other parts of the body.
Bacteria in the mouth has been linked to clogged arteries, stroke and endocarditis. Researchers have long proven that bacteria in gum disease can enter the bloodstream, traveling to arteries in the heart.
Take your mouth care seriously. Brush at least twice a day and floss every night. Use sodium bi-carb with a non-fluoride toothpaste to brush, Then rinse with H2O2 to kill the bad bacteria. Get in the habit of rinsing with it both morning and at nighttime. Don’t allow bacteria to grow over night in your mouth. But also, if your teeth just don’t feel good, brush or rinse an additional time. Flossing helps to remove plaque between teeth and under the gum line. Food debris left in the mouth and under the gum line is food for feeding bacteria and bad breath.
Make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes. Remind him or her every time you visit, or even when you call, and the hygienist as well. You want the very best care and your dentist may forget. Then take notes as he advises you of your particular care routine.
Dr. Billy Jamerson III says be sure to see your dentist more often than your usual two times a year for cleanings and inspections to keep you on track. And stop eating the foods that send your blood sugar spiraling out of control, because face it, if you continue eating processed and refined carbohydrates, you cannot win. Also, skip the peppermints — it’s all sugar. Not any good for your mouth, breath or your heart.
After seeing your dentist, make sure you sit down with a nutritionist to get your diet right. Learn what to eat and what not to eat. Diabetes slows healing but a nutrient dense eating program, good home care of your mouth and timely visits with your dentist is critical to your success.
Make a commitment to saving your teeth and your life. These tips will get you started: Monitor your blood sugar levels daily, and keep a food diary so that you can go over it with your nutritionist. The better your control, the less likely you’ll develop gingivitis or periodontitis.
Eat more fresh fruits and green leafy veggies, berries and nuts. Drink more water — water with no additives. It’ll make more saliva to help eliminate excessive oral bacteria.
Don’t smoke and stay out of range of second hand smoke. Ask your pharmacist if you are taking drugs that could inhibit healing, so maybe it can be switched for some other medicine.
At least every other day, do an oral inspection of your mouth looking for any redness, bleeding, swelling, loose shaky teeth or any patches. Make note of anything that looks different or suspicious or out of the ordinary.
Managing diabetes is a long-term commitment. Good oral care, a good clean diet and diligence everyday will allow you to have beautiful teeth, a healthy mouth and heart, and a joyful life.