Diabetes and Dental Health
Dental hygiene is an essential part of good health. For diabetics, problems with the teeth and gums can be more common and more serious than for the average person.
For this reason, if you have diabetes dental care is even more important, but it does not mean that you have to adopt a new or different treatment regimen.
Being aware of how best to look after your teeth is an essential part of learning to live with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes and gum diseases
Gum disease is a very common infection and occurs when bacteria within the mouth begins to form into a sticky plaque which sits on the surface of the tooth.
Over time, if this is not removed by regular brushing using the correct technique, a gum inflammation called gingivitis can develop.
Symptoms of gingivitis can include:
- Red and swollen gums
- Bleeding will often occur whilst brushing.
- Gum disease will stem from untreated gingivitis, and in turn the teeth will begin to decay.
One unfortunate side effect of diabetes and high blood glucose levels is the fact that any infection in or on the body will spread more easily.
Keeping blood glucose levels under control reduces the risk of infection spreading. Unfortunately, when your body begins to fight an infection, blood glucose levels will usually rise in response.
Should the infection in your mouth become worse, your food intake could be affected, further affecting your diabetes.
Thrush of the mouth is also more common amongst people who have poor blood glucose control.
Ways to ensure good dental hygiene as a diabetic
Making sure that you visit a dentist every six months ensures that any infection will be treated as early as possible. Minor dental problems can quickly escalate, and a routine visit to the dentist will pick up on these.
In the UK, although diabetic people are more prone to dental problems, they do not receive any extra financial help for dental treatment.
Dental hygiene, diabetes, and heart problems
Diabetes can cause excess cholesterol to build up in the bloodstream.
If your gums also have an infection that isn’t treated quickly then bacteria from the infected gums can flow into the bloodstream.
In turn, this may intensify the speed at which arteries are clogged by cholesterol. As a diabetic, make sure that you look after both your teeth and your gums, and visit your dentist regularly.
Diabetes, the toothbrush, and brushing techniques
A good quality toothbrush can make all the difference to a brushing routine. Toothbrushes should have soft nylon bristles with rounded ends. They should be used gently and feel comfortable in the hand. A dentist or hygienist will have advice about the best type of toothbrush to use.
Fluoride toothpaste will keep the teeth strong, and some toothpaste will take sensitive teeth into account. An anti-bacterial oral mouthwash may also be a good idea, but your dentist will be able to recommend one if so.
A balanced diet and regular exercise, the route treatment of any type 2 diabetic, remains the best way to keep blood sugar levels under control. Smoking can also speed up gum disease and lead to the loss of teeth.
Visiting the dentist
Stressing out about visiting the dentist is a bad idea, because it could make your blood sugar levels rise.
Relax before your visit. When at the dentist, make absolutely sure that he or she knows you have diabetes.
Some dentists may require you to know your blood glucose level.
Furthermore, before dental
work you may have to take special precautions (such as not eating for a
short period) that could affect your treatment regime.
High levels of blood sugar may affect the time the teeth and gums take to heal, and some dentists will prescribe antibiotics to prevent any chance of infection.
If dental work is taking an unusually long time to heal, you should contact your diabetes healthcare team or dentist immediately for advice.
- British Dental Association (BDA)
- BDA Foundation Helpline on
0870 333 1188