As if diabetics don’t already have enough to consider when managing blood sugar, let’s add one more thing that perhaps you’ve never considered… dental health!
That’s right, research confirms dental hygiene plays a major role in diabetes management. A recent study from the Dental Hospital of the University of Barcelona found that Type II diabetics who maintained good oral hygiene were more likely to improve their HbA1c levels. Amazing!
Before we dive into dental do’s and don’ts, let’s talk teeth. Your teeth are capable of exerting an incredible average of 200 pounds of pressure when you bite down. Wow! No wonder it hurts so much to bite your tongue!
Did you know that the enamel (the shiny, white coating over your teeth) is stronger than bone? Tooth enamel is very durable and resistant to damage.
Teeth actually outlast the other parts of the human body. Teeth give researchers insight into ancient peoples, their cultures, what they ate, and how they lived. Imagine… all of the information being provided by a tooth!
There are upwards of 300 types of bacteria that can find their way into the human mouth and attack the teeth and gums. Healthy dental hygiene habits and regular checkups with your dentist will limit any damage caused by these pesky bacterial invaders.
Basic healthy dental habits break down to brushing and flossing. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, then floss. It’s the best way to prevent tooth decay and fight gum disease.
While our teeth are made strong by enamel, they are still at risk for damage. Most other tissues and organs in our bodies can repair themselves, but teeth cannot. When damaged, they must be repaired by a skilled dentist using caps, crowns, fillings or veneers.
Signs of tooth trouble:
Sensitivity to hot or cold
Gums bleed or become inflamed when brushing or flossing
Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
Difficulty chewing or swallowing
Sores in the mouth that reoccur and do not heal on their own
If you have a history of dental interventions like fillings, crowns, or veneers, if you have a chronic health condition like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, or have a family history of tooth decay or gum disease, you should visit the dentist more often.
The absence of tooth pain/sensitivity or any of the above risk factors does not excuse you from seeing the dentist regularly. Dental health is just as important as other forms of health. You wouldn’t skip your annual physical with your primary care physician, so don’t skip your appointment with your dentist. Also be sure to keep your dentist apprised of developments in other areas of your health (especially your blood sugar) as we now know they are closely related.
Regular dental visits are crucial because they allow any problems to be caught early. When an issue is detected in the early stages, the less uncomfortable and the more affordable the remedy will be. Just as we are each individuals, our dental care plans will be unique, as well. Some of us need dental care once a year, some of us twice a year, some of us more often.
If you’ve never been to the dentist before (or haven’t been lately) here’s what you can expect at your next dental appointment.
The hygienist will review your medical history, examine your teeth and gums, and perform x rays if needed. The dental hygienist will then perform your dental cleaning. The dentist will come in, review your x rays, and discuss the current state of your dental health.
If there are problems present, your dentist will discuss a proposed plan of care with you before proceeding with treatment. Many dentists now offer what is called “comfort dentistry” in which various interventions are used to ensure you are relaxed, comfortable, and pain free throughout your dental treatments. Dental care has the reputation of being very expensive, so also be sure to speak with your dental provider about filing your dental insurance, and if payment plans are available for the treatments you have planned.
It is absolutely imperative for diabetics to remain on top of their dental health. It is a part of our health that is easy to forget about, and that may avoid due to fear of discomfort. The ultimate discomfort, however is found in bad health. Don’t let fear of the dentist complicate your blood sugar and overall health goals. Make your dental checkup appointment today!