Diabetes and dental care
Dental health is important, especially if you have diabetes. Poorly managed blood glucose (sugar) levels can lead to severe toothaches or other dental problems.
What are the signs of dental problems with diabetes?
Some signs of dental problems include:
- Tooth decay (cavities) – Your mouth naturally contains bacteria and when starches and sugars in food and drinks interact with these bacteria, plaque can form. The acids in plaque attack the hard, outer surface of your teeth (enamel) which can lead to cavities.
- Early gum disease (gingivitis) – Diabetes reduces your ability to fight bacteria. If you don’t remove plaque with regular brushing and flossing, it will harden under your gum line into tartar. The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, your gums can become sore, swollen and red and bleed when you brush your teeth.
- Advanced gum disease (periodontitis) – Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a more serious infection called periodontitis. This can destroy the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. This can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth and your teeth to loosen and even fall out.
Like all infections, a dental infection can make your blood glucose increase. Having high blood glucose can make your teeth and gum problems worse, and you can even lose teeth. Your diabetes health care team can help you keep your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
How can I prevent dental problems?
To prevent dental problems when you have diabetes, you should:
- brush your teeth at least twice a day (morning and night)
- use a soft toothbrush and tooth paste with fluoride
- rinse your toothbrush after each brushing and store upright (with bristles at the top) to help keep bacteria from going on your toothbrush
- Get a new toothbrush at least every three months
- floss your teeth at least once a day to remove plaque;
- schedule regular dental appointments twice a year to have your teeth cleaned;
- make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes;
- look for early signs of gum disease (redness, swelling, dry mouth, loose teeth or mouth pain);
- keep false teeth clean;
- don’t smoke (talk to your family physician / nurse practitioner about ways to quit smoking).
When should I plan my dental visit?
Plan your visit to the dentist so it won’t change the time you take your insulin or meals. Do not skip a meal or any diabetes medication before your visit. After breakfast may be a good time for your dental visit. For more information, visit the Diabetes Canada website.