How does diabetes affect your oral health?

by: Sandy Johnson, RDH, BA

If you are one of the nearly 24 million Americans with diabetes, you are almost certainly at increased risk for gum disease and other oral health concerns. That’s why it’s especially important for diabetics to take good care of their teeth and gums.

Your white blood cells help prevent bacterial infections in your mouth; uncontrolled diabetes impairs those blood cells from working properly. In other words, having diabetes weakens your mouth’s natural ability to battle germs and bacteria.

Simultaneously, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can make gum disease worse, which in turn makes it more of a challenge to control your diabetes. Working in tandem, the two conditions of diabetes and gum disease can team up to cause even more serious health problems than each condition on its own.

Controlling your blood glucose levels will help prevent potential problems, as will regular brushing and flossing along with twice yearly visits to your dental professional. Those with diabetes should also be on the lookout for early symptoms of gum disease, such as red, bleeding or sore gums, a constant bad taste in the mouth or gums starting to pull away from the teeth. And make sure to alert your dentist and hygienist if you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, so they can work with you to keep an eye on your oral health.

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