Teeth and gums probably don’t come to mind when you think of diabetes problems. But people with diabetes whose blood glucose is too high for too long have a greater chance of developing dental problems than people without diabetes. Learning how to care for your teeth and gums can help prevent problems before they start.
What’s the Connection?
High blood glucose levels help germs grow. These germs can build a sticky film on your teeth called plaque, which can lead to red, sore and swollen gums. Plaque can harden and grow under your gums. If not treated, these problems can lead to gum disease and/or the loss of teeth.
How Can You Detect Problems?
Red, sore and bleeding gums are the first sign of gum disease. If these problems aren’t treated, they can lead to periodontitis, also known as disease of the gums. If the infection gets worse, the gums can pull away from the teeth and make teeth look longer than normal.
Other symptoms that may mean you have problems with your teeth and gums are loose or sensitive teeth, bad breath, a bite that doesn’t feel right, and/or dentures that no longer fit just right.
What to Do?
The best way to prevent diabetes-related tooth and gum problems is to practice the old saying of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, you should do what it takes to prevent the problems before they start. To prevent teeth and gum problems:
- Keep your blood glucose level as close to normal as possible.
- Floss your teeth at least once per day to prevent the buildup of plaque.
- Brush your teeth after you eat. People with diabetes have an increased risk for certain types of gum disease, so ask your dentist about the best toothbrush and toothpaste for you to use.
- See your dentist and dental hygienist at least two times per year. Make sure your dentist and hygienist know you have diabetes. This helps them keep a better eye on problems you could have.
- If you have red, sore or bleeding gums or other symptoms noted above, call your dentist right away to schedule a visit. Talk about the best way to manage the problem, and treat the problem quickly. The quicker you treat it, the easier it will be to prevent further and worse problems.
What’s the best way to brush and floss?
The best way to Brush:
- Brush at least twice each day for two minutes each time.
- Tilt your brush at a 45-degree angle at the gumline. Brush your teeth in a circular motion. Use short and gentle strokes.
- Clean all the surfaces of every tooth: the front, back and flat chewing surfaces of every tooth.
- Pay special attention to your back teeth and the area around any crowns and bridges.
- After you have finished brushing your teeth and gums, gently brush your tongue. This will take away unhealthy bacteria, and it will also freshen your breath.
The best way to Floss
- Cut off about 18 inches of floss.
- Wind one end of the floss around the middle finger of one hand, then do the same with the other end on your other hand
- Hold the floss between the index finger and thumb of each hand. Gently slide the floss between each of your teeth.
- Slide the floss gently up and down between the teeth. Then, curve the floss around the bottom of each tooth to get into the gums. This is where plaque tends to build up.
- Never snap or force the floss. This can cut or bruise your gums.
- Move the floss so you use clean sections of it as you move from tooth to tooth.