Because of their high blood glucose levels, people with diabetes are prone to problems with their teeth and gums like tooth decay and gum disease. Dr. Kenneth Ingber, a respected dentist in Washington, D.C., explains why.
The mouth naturally has many types of bacteria, and when the sugar/starches in food and beverages interact with the bacteria, it forms a sticky film on the teeth called plaque. Plaque contains acids that attack the tooth enamel and can lead to cavities. People with high blood sugar levels have a greater supply of sugar and starches, and therefore a higher risk of acid attacking the tooth enamel and forming cavities.
In addition, diabetes hinders the body’s ability to fight off gum disease (gingivitis). When gingivitis is left untreated, it can evolve into an advanced gum infection called periodontitis. Periodontitis destroys the gums and bones that support the teeth. It may cause the gums to recede, or the teeth to become loose and even fall out. Studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to develop gum disease than people who don’t have diabetes.
The good news is there are measures that diabetics can take to prevent dental problems. One of the most important steps for prevention is daily flossing.
Tips for Flossing
Flossing is critical to cleaning plaque and food particles from between the teeth and below the gum line. It is able to reach crevices that your toothbrush simply cannot. Flossing is probably not your favorite daily task, but with these tips, it can be more effective.
Take an 18-inch piece of floss and wrap it around one of your middle fingers. Hold it tightly between your thumbs and index fingers, leaving about an inch between them. Position the floss between your teeth by making a gentle sawing motion. Move the floss slowly down to the gum line and curve it around one of the teeth. Then, scrape it up and down on the sides of the tooth to remove food debris and plaque. Remember to clean the backside of the rear teeth.
The floss will get worn and dirty; simply shift to a cleaner section of the thread and resume flossing. When you’re finished, rinse your mouth out with water to flush any remaining food particles.
If you have bridgework, arthritis in your hands or other dexterity problems, there are tools to help you with flossing. Ask Dr. Ingber for his recommendations.
Schedule a Dental Visit
Another important component of oral care for diabetics is regular dental visits. To schedule a check-up with Dr. Ingber, please call our practice at 888-549-7682 or send us an email.