Healthy Teeth and Gums: An Important Part of Your Diabetes Management Plan
Everybody likes a bright smile. And keeping your teeth and gums healthy is especially important if you have diabetes. That’s because people with diabetes are at increased risk for a variety of oral health complications, including periodontal (gum) disease, which can damage the gums and bone around your teeth.1
The Vicious Cycle
Gum disease may make it harder for you to manage your blood sugar.1 And poorly controlled diabetes can, in turn, lead to even worse tooth and gum problems.2 Studies suggest that gum disease also may be linked to other serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.3
Chew on These Tips
How can you help keep your teeth and gums healthy? In addition to managing your blood sugar,1 here are some strategies:
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste4 and a soft-bristle brush. Use short, gentle strokes, pay special attention to the gum line, and take your time. Brush your tongue, too.5 Be sure to replace your toothbrush every three or four months.6
Floss your teeth once a day.4 Ask your dentist about the proper way to floss.2 Specially designed dental flossholders make flossing easier.5
Call your dentist if you notice any of the warning signs of gum disease.4 These may include red, tender gums that bleed; gums that have pulled away from your teeth; bad breath; or loose teeth.7
Be sure to get a checkup every six months2 so that your dentist or hygenist can remove tartar from your teeth and gum line. Tartar harbors plaque, which is a sticky film loaded with bacteria that increases your risk for gum disease. Tell your dentist that you have diabetes.4
If you wear dentures, have them checked regularly by your dentist.2
Smoking also can increase your risk for gum disease,2 as well as serious diabetic complications, such as nerve damage and heart disease. So, if you smoke, quit.8
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is a team effort. But with daily care and regular dental checkups, you can have a bright smile—and keep your diabetes under control.4
1 “Diabetes: Dental Tips.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, May 2007. www.nidcr.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/9490033D-5CE4-4CFB-9755-FB5BB2A5545F/0/DiabetesDentalTips_Eng.pdf. Accessed 2010.
2 “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy.” National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, National Institutes of Health, April 2008. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/complications_teeth/index.htm Accessed 2010.
3 “Oral-Systemic Health (Your Oral Health and Overall Health).” American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/4081.aspx?currentTab=2 Accessed 2010.
4 “Diabetes: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/3069.aspx?currentTab=1 Accessed 2010.
5 “Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/2624.aspx Accessed 2010.
6 “Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums.” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/2624.aspx Accessed 2010.
7 “Disease, Gum (Diseases, Periodontal).” Oral Health Topics, American Dental Association. http:///www.ada.org/3063.aspx?currentTab=1 Accessed 2010.
8 “Smoking.” American Diabetes Association. www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/smoking.jsp Accessed 2010.