Dental Care and Diabetes

Diabetes and Oral Health

According to the American Dental Association, 21 million Americans have diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that affects the entire body. People with diabetes have a greater risk for health problems because they are unable to control their blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled blood sugar disables the white blood cells’ ability to fight infection. White blood cells are the body’s key defense to infection. Without them working at full capacity, you are at greater risk for infections of the mouth. People with diabetes who smoke are 10 times more likely to develop the following conditions as smoking hinders the blood flow to the gums, which interferes with healing.

Periodontal disease (often called periodontitis and gum disease) is a progressive condition that often leads to tooth loss if treatment is not properly sought. Periodontal disease begins with a bacterial infection in the gingival tissue which surrounds the teeth. As the bacteria colonizes, the gum pockets become deeper, the gums recede as tissue is destroyed and the periodontitis eventually attacks the underlying bone tissue. It is not widely known that periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes; particularly when the diabetes is not under proper control.

The best way for diabetic patients to prevent these conditions is to control their blood sugar levels. There is a direct link between high glucose levels and oral disease. Develop healthy oral habits such as brushing regularly, flossing, and dental checkups twice per year. Don’t smoke. While smoking is not good for anyone, diabetic patients are several times more likely to develop smoking related conditions than non diabetic patients.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It is of paramount importance for people suffering any type of diabetes to see the dentist at least twice yearly for checkups and professional cleanings. Studies have shown that simple non-surgical periodontal treatments can lower the HbA1c (hemoglobin molecule blood test) count as much as 20% in a six month period.

The dentist will use medical history, family history, and dental X-rays to assess the risk factors for periodontal disease and determine the exact condition of the gums, teeth and underlying jawbone. If necessary, the dentist will work in conjunction with other doctors to ensure that both the diabetes and gum disease are being managed and controlled as effectively as possible.

Non-surgical procedures performed by the dentist and dental hygienist include deep scaling, where calculus (tartar) will be removed from the teeth above and below the gumline, and root planing, where the root of the tooth is smoothed down to eliminate any remaining bacteria. Antibiotics may be applied to the gum pockets to promote healing.

Before and after periodontal treatment, the dentist and hygienist will recommend proper home care and oral maintenance as well as prescribing prescription mouthwashes which serve to deter further bacteria colonization.

If you have any questions or concerns about diabetes or periodontal disease, please contact our office at 855-693-8131

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