When you have diabetes, your life changes, literally. High blood sugar levels affect how the rest of your body’s cells work. For instance, problems with your white blood cells impair wound healing, making it slower than usual. And it affects your oral health as well—people with diabetes might find themselves at a higher risk of dry mouth and gum disease.
Managing your diabetes, living a healthy lifestyle, and going to the doctor to receive treatment is vital for this reason.
Because diabetes causes trouble controlling blood glucose in the body, proper insulin treatment is vital. However, many suffering from diabetes often let it go undetected for a while before realizing some of their oral-related problems, such as dry mouth, are caused by the underlying disease. Smoking also worsens the oral health problems caused by diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that occurs when blood sugar or glucose is too high.
Type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes are the most common disorders.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 9.4 percent of Americans, or 30.3 million individuals, had diabetes in 2015.
Every year after that, about 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with the disorder. Unfortunately, diabetes continues to be the seventh leading cause of death in the country.
The metabolic disorder affects the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, and other body systems.
How Can Diabetes Affect Your Oral Health?
Diabetes can also take a toll on one’s oral health.
Gum Disease: People with diabetes are at unique risk for periodontal or gum diseases because they are more prone to bacterial infection and have a reduced ability to combat bacteria. Periodontal disease is an inflammation of the gum line, affecting the surrounding bones and teeth. Gum disease can lead to painful chewing and tooth loss.
Also, periodontal diseases have the possibility of affecting blood sugar control. In turn, this contributes to the progression of diabetes, making the linkage between diabetes and oral health two-way.
Dry Mouth: One oral symptom of undetected diabetes is dry mouth. A dry mouth or xerostomia is when the mouth does not produce enough saliva. Saliva moistens and cleanses the mouth. It also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. Dry mouth can cause tooth decay, infections, ulcers, and soreness when left untreated.
Oral Thrush: People with diabetes can also get thrush, a fungal infection that appears in the body’s moist and warm regions. A dry mouth and high glucose levels in the saliva contribute to the yeast’s growth, leading to thrush. Additionally, uncontrolled diabetes can also result in slow oral wound healing due to reduced blood circulation.
Dental Health Tips for People with Diabetes
- Practicing good oral hygiene is vital for everyone. Brushing and flossing are the most essential activities to maintain good oral health. However, avoid aggressive brushing because it can irritate the gums.
- Aside from brushing and flossing, a twice-a-year consultation with the dentist will help in the early detection of dental problems. Because slow oral wound healing is possible for those with diabetes, it is best to seek dental care immediately when oral health problems occur.
- During routine check-ups, update the dentist on the status of your condition and any medications you take. It is also advisable to consult your diabetes physician first to assess your health condition properly.
- Control your blood sugar. Reasonable blood sugar control is the key to regulating and preventing mouth problems. People with diabetes who have controlled blood sugar levels are less prone to periodontal diseases than individuals with low blood sugar control.
- Say no to smoking, as it aggravates gum diseases.
People with diabetes must pay extra attention to their mouths as they are at higher risk of oral health problems.
10 Foods to Enjoy Safely
Aside from the ten foods listed below, there are other foods that diabetic people can enjoy, which are advantageous to their health. These include garlic, tomatoes, kale, spinach, melon, red onions, nuts, soy, oatmeal, tea, quinoa, raspberries, red grapefruit, red peppers, and yogurt.
- Apples: According to the Harvard School of Public Health, individuals who eat five or more apples weekly lower their risk of type 2 diabetes by 23 percent.
- Asparagus: This non-starchy vegetable is low in carbs calories and contains about two grams of dietary fiber per serving. Asparagus is also rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that plays a role in easing the effects of aging. This veggie can also help reduce the risks of many diseases, including diabetes.
- Avocados: Aside from improving cholesterol levels and decreasing the risk of heart disease, avocado lowers the danger of developing type 2 diabetes thanks to its high monounsaturated fat content.
- Beans: A 2012 study suggests that a cup of legumes daily can better blood sugar control and lower blood pressure.
- Blueberries: The high fiber content in blueberries may reduce the risk of diabetes and cognitive decline. Additionally, it can help keep the blood sugar stable, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Diabetes Education program director Joanne Gallivan, MS, RD.
- Broccoli: Like asparagus, broccoli is non-starchy. It is also rich in vitamin C, the antioxidant beta-carotene, folate, and fiber.
- Carrots: Noted for their high vitamin A content, carrots also lower type 2 diabetes risk. This is even true for individuals who have a genetic susceptibility to the disease, according to a 2013 study from Stanford University School of Medicine.
- Cranberries: Cranberries are best known for preventing urinary tract infections. Cranberries can fit perfectly into a diabetic meal plan. Cranberries have an abundance of phytonutrients such as anthocyanins.
- Fish: Seafood has a lower unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol than most meats. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Flaxseeds: A lot of research shows the benefits of flaxseeds for people with diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, flaxseed may be useful in lowering hemoglobin A1C in individuals with type 2 diabetes. In another study in the 2011 Journal of Dietary Supplements, people with type 2 diabetes who included flaxseed in their diet had lower blood glucose levels. These individuals also had lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL.
4 Tips for a Safe Visit
1. Consult your physician beforehand
Sure, there are probably countless lists on the internet detailing what you can or can’t do as a person with diabetes. But when it comes to any medical intervention, it’s always best to consult your physician. After all, your physician knows more about the extent of your condition and blood sugar levels. They can advise you on any potential limitations during dental treatment and how you can accommodate them.
2. Talk to your dentist about your condition
When you have diabetes, oral health becomes all the more important because you’re at a higher risk of developing dental issues. These issues include gum disease and fungal infections, among other things. So aside from your physician, you’ll also need to work hand-in-hand with your dentist regarding treatment.
To ensure a successful treatment, your dentist might ask about what medicines you’re taking or check how high your blood sugar levels are. From there, they can change up the treatment to make it more suitable for you and your condition. No need to look for a dentist for people with diabetes.
3. Take your medicines
When you have diabetes, one surefire way to make sure that your treatment goes smoothly is to manage your blood sugar levels. Part of that involves following your physician’s advice and take your medications as needed. When you have a dental appointment booked, don’t skip your dosage—even if you’re scheduled to take it during the visit itself. Having a blood sugar level that’s close to normal lessens the risk of complications if you’ll need to undergo oral surgery or other dental treatments.
4. Make sure you’re feeling well during your appointment
Finally, if you find yourself with high blood sugar during the day of your appointment, don’t be afraid to cancel. Both your physician and dentist would probably advise against any dental treatment during this time, as it could increase your risk of health complications during the procedure. In that case, don’t hesitate to reschedule.