Here's Why Saying "Ahhh" is So Important When You have Diabetes!

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Nobody looks forward to a dentist appointment. But if you have diabetes, you’re more prone to a mouth full of trouble if you don’t keep that appointment!

Something to Chew On

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends everyone visit their dentist at least once a year. But if you have diabetes, there’s an especially good reason to keep that appointment.

“Diabetes reduces the body's ability to fight infection, which makes diabetics more prone to oral health problems, including gum disease, cavities due to dry mouth and slow wound healing,” says Dr. Scott Eisen, a dentist with Catonsville Dental Care in Catonsville, Maryland. Poor oral health can raise blood sugar and, if your blood sugar is out of control, it weakens the white blood cells, which are your body’s defense against bacterial infections in the mouth.

Dry Mouth

Talk about feeling parched! Some of the problems associated with a dry mouth include a sore throat, trouble swallowing, bad breath and a burning sensation.

“Dry mouth is a common symptom in patients with Diabetes Types I and II, which is believed to be a result of high blood sugar levels. Medications used to treat diabetes can also exacerbate mouth dryness,” says Dr. Eisen. It may sound gross, but you need saliva to fight cavity-causing acids produced by plaque.

In fact, you may have to use a high-fluoride toothpaste to counteract a severely dry mouth. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to quench your dry mouth. The ADA suggests drinking water, chewing sugarless gum and chowing down on healthy, crunchy foods to get your saliva going naturally and saliva substitutes for more relief.

Thrush

If your sugar is out of whack, you could be prone to thrush, an oral infection caused by the yeast Candida. It’s hard to ignore the signs—painful white and red patches on your tongue and the inside of your cheeks, sometimes with a burning sensation. Yeast thrives when the sugar in your blood is raised. If you get thrush, your dentist may prescribe an antifungal medicine.

Gum Disease

Red and swollen gums are signs of gum disease, and it’s a condition you don’t want to ignore. Gum disease can lead to a more serious condition called periodontal disease, which breaks down gums, bones and the tissue that support your pearly whites. If it’s left untreated, you’ll likely lose teeth. Unfortunately, people with diabetes are more likely to get gum disease than people without diabetes. Some research suggests that gum disease may make it harder for people with diabetes to control their blood glucose levels. But don’t let that get you down in the mouth! Fight gum disease by being vigilant with a daily routine. Brush your teeth twice daily. Use floss to loosen the food between your teeth. If your teeth already have gaps, use a dental brush, too. Ask your doctor if you should use a fluorinated or antiseptic mouthwash. And if you smoke, do your best to quit. People with diabetes who smoke have a 20 percent greater chance of developing thrush and periodontal disease.

Say, “Ahhh!”

Sure, the conditions are kind of scary. But you’re not fighting a losing battle. Be proactive and manage your blood sugars. Eat a healthy diet and exercise. Maintain good oral hygiene and don’t skip out on your dental appointments. Tell your dentist about the meds you’re taking and if your blood sugar isn’t under control. When your appointment rolls around, Dr. Eisen says, “Be sure to eat. Take all medications normally, and test your blood glucose. Morning appointments are often a good idea because blood sugar is less variable at this time of day.” If morning appointments don’t work for you, schedule a time that fits best regarding meals and medications. Stay vigilant about managing your blood sugars and oral health care. You’ll have something to smile about for years to come!