Many factors influence how healthy your mouth is, like family history, hygiene practices, and chronic health conditions. Reducing the risk of tooth decay in your smile may include different or more extensive steps than those your friends or family take. Diabetics, for example, have a higher risk of gum disease, which means their preventive care routine has an even larger impact on their overall health than someone without diabetes.
A few statistics on diabetes in Hawaii:
- More than 150,000
keikiand adults or 12% of the local population are diabetic.
- Approximately 442,000 adults have prediabetes.
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death nationwide and in Hawaii.
- Between 2000 and 2010, the prevalence of self-reported type 2 diabetes in Hawaii increased by 60%.
- (Statistics reported by the State of Hawaii, Department of Health and the American Diabetes Association in Hawaii)
- Diabetes and dental health go hand-in-hand. Your dentist helps you watch out for the warning indicators of decreased dental health and diabetes, which affect every part of your body.
Diabetes, Immune Health, and Your Smile
Dental health and total body health are tightly intertwined. Bacteria in the mouth are sticky and soft; they naturally form a substance we call plaque. When plaque builds up on the teeth and along the gum line, it becomes hard. Hard plaque is called tartar, and it can only be removed by a dentist with a special instrument. Thankfully, that process isn’t painful. But, when you don’t see the dentist and the tartar is left alone, it repeatedly irritates the gums and tissue. This can easily lead to infection in your gums, and diabetics are more prone because of their weakened immune health. They are more prone to infections in general for this reason.
Diabetics often experience a dry mouth from both their medical condition and from medications. Saliva is a great tool for rinsing the teeth and dislodging bacteria, and your mouth misses it when it isn’t present. This can further complicate a diabetic’s smile health by contributing to tooth decay.
A few indicators of tooth decay and infection are swelling, pain when chewing, and sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods. The effect of diabetes on teeth and gums shouldn’t be ignored – it can lead to further overall health complications and the loss of natural teeth. Nearly 22 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes have periodontal disease in the U.S. Periodontal disease occurs when gum disease isn’t treated by a dentist.
If diabetes is left untreated, it can increasingly damage your smile health over time:
- You may experience a dry mouth from less production of saliva.
- Since saliva protects teeth, dry mouth makes your risk for cavities higher.
- Gum disease is common among dental patients with diabetes, which creates swelling, sensitivity, and irritation along the gums.
- Your taste buds may not work as well.
- Wounds or mouth sores may have delayed healing.
- This makes you more prone to infections inside the mouth.
- Children with diabetes can have teeth erupt earlier than is typical.
We encourage everyone to use their dental benefits provider and their dentist as allies in wellness, especially diabetics. Dentists can help you maintain, if not improve, your smile and your overall health because of their education around diabetes and dental health.
Receiving professional deep cleanings from your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c, or your average blood glucose levels. Though dental patients with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, dental cleanings help reduce a diabetic patient’s risk factors for unhealthy glucose levels! Seeing the dentist will help you lower your risk.
Dentists Caring for Diabetics
Dentists are trained on the effect diabetes has on teeth and gums. Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common types of chronic diseases in America, which is why it’s important to understand how to care for your smile if you are a diabetic. To understand your current risk of developing diabetes, use this tool from the American Diabetes Association.
It’s crucial for diabetics to visit the dentist at least twice a year for bi-annual check-ups. This allows your dentist to ensure your mouth is healthy and detect any changes in your oral health. By continuing to see the dentist consistently over time, they are able to watch for the potential development of diabetic-related dental health problems. These include a change in saliva, a red or swollen palate, changes in the texture of the tongue, loose teeth, colored deposits on the teeth, or signs of cavities forming.
Overall Health | Know Your Risk
Reducing the Risk of Tooth Decay in Diabetics and Prediabetics
Three elements key to preventing diabetes are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight,
- Eating a balanced diet,
- and being active.
About one in three adults over 18 are prediabetic, meaning their blood sugar is between 140 and 199 after repeating the initial test. Unless lifestyle changes are made, prediabetic individuals are very likely to form Type 2 diabetes. A healthier diet and exercise are always recommended when it comes to being prediabetic. Unfortunately, there are often no signs or symptoms when someone is prediabetic.
That’s why it’s important to understand the risk factors for developing diabetes. This body mass index scale can help you determine your healthy weight, as being overweight is a contributing factor to the development of diabetes.
Are you exercising 30 minutes a day? 40.8 percent of individuals diagnosed with diabetes between 2011 and 2014 were inactive adults who got less than 10 minutes a week of moderate physical activity. 73.6 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes also had high blood pressure.
Many factors influence your health, which is why it’s important to visit both your doctor and your dentist regularly to monitor your blood pressure, glucose levels, weight, and dental health, and more.
In 2013, the American Diabetes Association created an award-winning tool called the “My Health Advisor,” which is a unique risk assessment tool that takes a closer look at your lifestyle, family history, and other factors that could affect your wellness. We encourage you to also take advantage of the My Health Advisor tool to evaluate your risk for severe health problems. Learn more about exploring and lowering your risk for developing diabetes at www.diabetes.org.
Check out our low-sugar recipes for reducing the risk of tooth decay and diabetes in your home.