If you or someone you love has diabetes, then you’re already familiar with the toll it can take on a person’s health. The most common complications of diabetes are heart, nerve, kidney, and eye damage. But did you know that people with diabetes are also more likely to develop gum disease? Eventually, gum disease can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Read on as we explore the connection between gum disease and diabetes and provide tips for keeping your smile healthy.
What Exactly Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is the inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup. During the first stage of gum disease (also known as gingivitis), you might only notice mild symptoms, such as tenderness in your gums, bad breath, or bleeding while brushing or flossing. However, if you don’t get the condition treated, it may progress into periodontitis. At this point, bacteria attack the jawbone, making it too weak to hold your teeth in place. Also, your gums may recede. Your teeth can end up loosening and even falling out entirely.
Why Gum Disease Is Worse for People with Diabetes
There is actually no difference between the oral bacteria of someone with diabetes and someone without diabetes. The reason why gum disease is more harmful in people with diabetes is because diabetes creates a stronger inflammatory response to bacterial infections, especially if the condition is poorly managed. As a result, the gums can become damaged more easily.
5 Tips to Help You Prevent Gum Disease
Fortunately, gum disease is preventable in most cases. In addition to asking your endocrinologist or primary care physician for advice on managing your diabetes, follow these five tips to keep your gums disease-free:
- Avoid acidic foods and beverages – Soda, energy drinks, citrus fruits, and other acidic items can wear down your tooth enamel, making them more susceptible to decay and infection.
- Floss daily – Flossing between every tooth is the best way to prevent bacteria and plaque from accumulating.
- Brush twice a day – Make sure to brush for two full minutes each time.
- Don’t neglect your tongue – Your tongue can harbor bacteria that could get redeposited onto your teeth, so don’t forget to brush it too.
- Visit your dentist regularly – Most people need two dental checkups and cleanings per year, but if you have diabetes, you might require more.
Diabetes may increase certain other health risks, but it doesn’t have to. Keeping these tips in mind will help you maintain a healthy smile – and body – for years to come!
About the Author
Dr. Medha Singh attended dental school in her native India before moving to the United States and obtaining a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from Tufts University. She has since realized her passion for periodontics (gum health) and has become a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and an Academic Fellow of the American Academy of Oral Medicine as well as the American Academy of Periodontology Foundation. To learn more about preventing gum disease, visit Dr. Singh’s website or call her dental office at (508) 545-1126.