April is Oral Health Month! Did you know blood sugars can impact oral health?
People living with diabetes may have a higher risk of developing complications to the teeth, gums, and tongue due to changes in the body and a weakened immune system. High blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, plays a role in increasing these risks, so it is important to routinely monitor and manage your blood sugar levels.
Let us look at some of the oral conditions to be mindful of and ways to prevent them and care for your oral health.
Oral Conditions related to Diabetes
Tooth decay – Our mouths naturally contain a variety of bacteria that feed on starches and sugars from the foods and drinks we consume each day. People living with diabetes may have more sugars in the saliva, which can help these bacteria grow. Particularly, the harmful types of bacteria can digest the sugars and produce acid in return, damaging the teeth by forming holes or cavities.
Gum disease – Plaques, which are white sticky films of bacteria, can buildup and harden at the gum line when a set of teeth are not cleaned properly. It can lead to inflammation and swelling of the gum surrounding the teeth (gingivitis), as well as damaging of the structures that support each tooth (periodontitis). Infections are especially concerning for people living with diabetes because it can raise blood sugar levels and requires more time and effort from the body to heal.
Dry mouth – Hyperglycemia can cause dry mouth, potentially affecting a person’s ability to chew, swallow and taste foods. Dry mouth can also increase the risks of tooth decay and gum disease.
Fungal infection – Oral thrush, a type of yeast infection, is more likely to develop and present itself as white or red patches on the skin inside of the mouth in the presence of dry mouth, higher amounts of sugars in the saliva, and/or damaged skin in the mouth.
Steps for Prevention and Care
Blood sugar management – Good news! Studies have shown that people living with diabetes who have well-controlled blood sugars have no more tooth decay or gum disease compared to those without diabetes. Speak with your doctor or a Certified Diabetes Educator to learn more about your blood sugars, target range, and ways to monitor and manage effectively.
Balanced nutrition – Eating a variety of nutritious foods is the best way to support blood sugar management, immunity, and bone health (including teeth!). Choose less of foods and drinks that are high in sugar and acid, such as soft drinks and orange juice, to reduce hyperglycemia and damage to the teeth. Drink water throughout the day not only to stay hydrated, but to remove unwanted food debris and dilute sugars and acids in the mouth. Click the link below for some extra nutrition tips!
Flossing and brushing your teeth – Brush your teeth at least two times a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to remove food and plaque buildups. Remember to scrape your tongue too! If you wear dentures, remove and clean them on a daily basis.
Regular dental check-ups – Schedule an appointment with your dentist to get your gums and teeth checked and cleaned twice a year. Report any swelling, redness, pain, bleeding, dryness, and loose tooth in the mouth.
Limit smoking/chewing tobacco – Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause gum diseases and oral cancer. Speak with your doctor about ways to quit.
For reference and further reading on diabetes and oral health, click on the links below: