Diabetes and Maintaining Good Oral Health

Diabetes can affect your oral health
Diabetes can affect your oral health

Research indicates that people with diabetes have a higher risk of oral health problems, including gum disease, thrush and dry mouth.

It is important for people living with diabetes to maintain excellent plaque removal every day through brushing regularly and using floss or small brushes for cleaning in-between the teeth. Good oral health can contribute to good general health.

Keeping good control of blood glucose levels, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking can all help reduce your risk of dental health problems. You should also ensure your dentist knows about your diabetes and that you attend regular dental appointments.

In this section we will look at the recommended teeth cleaning techniques that can help you maintain healthy teeth and gums and lower the chance of oral and general health complications developing.

Recommended brushing and interdental cleaning techniques

You should always brush your teeth last thing at night and at one other time in the day. A timer can be useful to ensure you brush for a full two minutes each time.

Once you have brushed your teeth, spit out but don’t rinse your mouth with water. Toothpaste has an active ingredient called fluoride, which prevents dental decay. The excess toothpaste on your teeth will continue working, if it is not rinsed off, to keep your teeth strong. Some toothpastes are designed to also reduce tooth sensitivity, these toothpastes should be used in the same way.

The mechanical aspect of tooth brushing removes dental plaque; this is the most important way to maintain healthy gums rather than a mouthwash.

A good quality small headed toothbrush can make all the difference to plaque removal. Toothbrushes should have soft nylon bristles with rounded ends. They should be used gently and feel comfortable in the hand. A dentist or hygienist can advise you about the best type of toothbrush to use.

Once a day you should use small brushes or floss to remove the plaque from in-between your teeth to improve and maintain the health of your gums. Be sure to use a small brush which is a snug fit in the gaps between your teeth to remove as much plaque as possible.

Once a day you should use small brushes or floss to remove the plaque from in-between your teeth to improve and maintain the health of your gums. Be sure to use a small brush which is a snug fit in the gaps between your teeth to remove as much plaque as possible.

How clean are your teeth?

An easy way to assess how well you are brushing your teeth is by using a plaque-disclosing tablet. These tablets show up the plaque deposits on your teeth, and can be bought online, at your dental surgery, in a pharmacy or at the supermarket.

Steps of use:

  1. Wear an old T-shirt/top as splashes of dye may discolour your clothes
  2. Brush your teeth as normal
  3. Apply Vaseline to your lips
  4. Chew a disclosing tablet on both sides of your mouth and role your tongue around the outer edges of your teeth
  5. Rinse your mouth out with water
  6. Plaque deposits will show as pink marks on your teeth
  7. Look at your teeth in the mirror with good light, to see if any plaque deposits remain on your teeth
  8. Any plaque missed can be brushed away
  9. Repeat the process once a week, to check how well you have been brushing.

You may want to take a picture on your phone of the plaque deposits to remind you of any areas you have missed and where to concentrate on brushing in future.

Common areas for plaque to build up and be missed when tooth brushing include:

  • In-between your teeth
  • At the levels where the teeth meet the gums
  • Around the edges of crowns and fillings
  • On the tongue side and palate sides of your teeth
Your Comments
 
my daughter has type1 diabetes and like most 8 year olds its a nightmare trying to get her to brush her teeth. her levels have been erratic for months now and even though we do exactly what we've been told to do we can't get it sorted (though instead of helping the diabetes team at her hospital blame us) now she has had infected gums and is going to the dentist to get a tooth removed because of it.
Posted by masterjasco, dunbar on Saturday, August 21, 2010
Why is dental health not a part of diabetic care within the NHS? We should be able to take care of all the sides of this illness but we have yet to be helped with the enormous charge we have to pay to visit a dentist. Is there nothing really to help us?
Posted by Bluedream, London on Thursday, August 12, 2010
I was diagnosed type 2 in 2004 but like many was diabetic before then just not followed up! I had a recurring abcess for some 2 years and was in extreme pain so saw the dentist who explained it was being fed by excess sugars in my blood. I then made the radical decision to have 22 teeth removed in one go to avoid going through extraction, pain, extraction, pain etc until i had none left. Now? no pain at all just perfect teeth and gums. He explained that just removing the three teeth affected woud not stop the diabetes affecting my other teeth therefore drastic action was needed. I was admitted and had a general anaesthetic and job done. Never ever regretted it for one moment. My story is extreme as i am an uncontrolled diabetic injecting 4 times daily but beware it could be you, take care of them and listen to what your body is telling you needs to be done.
Posted by deanna on Thursday, August 12, 2010
I was diagnosed type 2 two years ago and had gestational diabetes with both of my pregnancies. I see the Diabetic Nurse & attended the DESMOND course. At no point was dental health mentioned. A chronic dislike of dentists, a dentist who was obviously more concerned with patients who can afford private care, means that at 42, I now have full top & bottom dentures. Gum disease & receding gums coupled with significant bone lose has meant that this was the best course of action. Although I have got my head round it now & in myself I feel better than I have for the last couple of years. It is something that needs to be highlighted. I think that dental health should be treated like eye health - you should be able to get free dental check-ups if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Call me cynical but in general I am often left to think Dentists are more motivated by the value of your mouth to them, rather than the long term quality of life to you.
Posted by umamimum, South East on Thursday, August 12, 2010
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