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.
The Vicious Cycle
Gum disease may make it harder for you to manage your blood sugar. And poorly controlled diabetes can, in turn, lead to even worse tooth and gum problems. Studies suggest that gum disease also may be linked to other serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Chew on These Tips
How can you help keep your teeth and gums healthy? In addition to managing your blood sugar, here are some strategies:
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush. Use short, gentle strokes, pay special attention to the gum line, and take your time. Brush your tongue, too. Be sure to replace your toothbrush every three or four months.
Floss your teeth once a day. Ask your dentist about the proper way to floss. Specially designed dental flossholders make flossing easier.
Call your dentist if you notice any of the warning signs of gum disease. These may include red, tender gums that bleed; gums that have pulled away from your teeth; bad breath; or loose teeth.
Be sure to get a checkup every six months 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.
If you wear dentures, have them checked regularly by your dentist.
Smoking also can increase your risk for gum disease, as well as serious diabetic complications, such as nerve damage and heart disease. So, if you smoke, quit. Trying to quit smoking on your own can be difficult, but there is help available through a variety of organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see web site “How to Quit”).
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.
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