Q: Does diabetes really affect my teeth?
A: If you are one of the nearly 30 million people living in the U.S. with diabetes, you have special oral health needs. As a dentist practicing in Grand Rapids, I see first-hand how diabetes affects the mouth. It can lead to gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, and it can cause periodontitis, the most severe and common dental disease affecting those with diabetes. If left untreated, periodontitis may cause you to lose your teeth or have them pulled. It also reduces your body’s ability to regulate the level of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar can make diabetes harder to control and contribute to worsening gum disease.
Below are tips for keeping your mouth healthy while living with diabetes.
- Control your blood sugar level.
- Brush and floss daily.
- If you wear dentures, remove and clean them daily.
- Visit your dentist regularly; in fact, deep cleanings can help lower your HbA1c.
- Watch for signs of gum disease, including red, swollen, tender, and /or bleeding gums when you brush or floss; bad breath; permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other; and gums that have pulled away from teeth.
- Avoid smoking.
- Tell your dentist and hygienist any time there is a change in your medication or the severity of your diabetes.
- Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in control.
Nicole Kooiker, DDS
Dentist at Heart of the City Health Center