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Sweet Teeth: What Diabetes Means For Your Dental Health

As a diabetic, your doctor will address your dietary changes, medications and testing routines. What he or she may not tell you is that diabetes can be as damaging to your teeth and gums as it can be to the rest of your body. Here's a look at what you need to know about gum disease, dental health and other associated risks and ways to avoid them.

Dental Problems from Diabetes

Diabetes causes higher concentrations of glucose in your blood. When your blood sugar isn't properly and tightly managed, you'll experience prolonged increased levels of glucose. The higher your blood sugar, the greater your risk will be of increased dental problems. There are several things that high blood sugar levels can cause.

Decay - The bacteria that is naturally present in your mouth worsens when you have more sugar and starch in your body. This can increase the plaque that forms on your teeth, since it is the result of sugar and starch presence. Over time, this increase in plaque and sugar can deteriorate the enamel on your teeth, causing increased tooth decay.

Gingivitis - Diabetes will reduce your body's ability to fight infections and bacteria. Without frequent brushing, the plaque that accumulates on your teeth can cause tartar. The longer you have tartar buildup on your teeth, the greater your risk of gingivitis, which is gum swelling, irritation and bleeding.

Periodontitis - When gingivitis is present and untreated, it can progress into a condition referred to as periodontitis. This destroys the soft tissue in your gums and can destroy the bone supporting your teeth. As a diabetic, you're at greater risk of losing your teeth to this condition, because of your reduced ability to fight infections. In addition, many diabetics experience increased blood sugar levels in response to infections, which could worsen the condition further.

Protecting Your Teeth

Proper dental care is essential for diabetics because of these increased risks. Make sure that you're brushing your teeth at least twice every day. Don't brush too hard, though, because it can irritate your gums and cause bleeding. An electric toothbrush is a great investment, because it will get your teeth clean without the risk of pushing too hard. Replace your toothbrush every few months, too.

Visit your dentist at least twice a year, if not more often. This is essential, because your dentist can not only control the buildup of any plaque and tartar, but can also keep a watch for early signs of gum disease and irritation. Make sure that your dentist understands that you have diabetes, because he or she will need to know that you're at increased risk of dental problems. You may even need to take an antibiotic for a few days before your dental appointments to ensure that you are protected from any infections.

Control your blood sugar levels as tightly as possible. By keeping your blood sugar as normal as you can, it reduces your risk of diabetic complications for your teeth. Your primary care doctor will provide you with a target range to keep your blood sugar as well controlled as you can. Aim for that target range at all times whether you're on an insulin pump, injections or simply diet controlled. Work with your doctor to establish a solid plan for managing your blood sugar and protecting your overall health.

Diabetes is a lifelong disease, which makes it important that you understand how to protect your body, including your teeth. With a reliable dentist who understands diabetes and its effects on your teeth, you'll be able to better protect yourself. Talk to your dentist today to establish a solid dental care plan that works in conjunction with your diabetes management.