Did you know that diabetes and oral health are connected? You’ve likely heard of diabetes but you may wonder what exactly diabetes is and how it is connected to oral health.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. When we eat, most of the food is broken down into sugar also called glucose and released into the bloodstream. When our blood sugar goes up, it signals our pancreas to release insulin, which helps our body cells use that sugar as energy. If someone has diabetes, their body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it does make as well as it should. Too much blood sugar can stay in the bloodstream and over time can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

Did you know, diabetes can also cause problems in your mouth? People with diabetes have a higher chance of having periodontal or gum disease, an infection of the gum in bone that holds the teeth in place. Periodontal disease can lead to pain, bad breath doesn’t go away, chewing difficulties and even tooth loss. Diabetes can also slow down healing. So it can interfere with the treatment of periodontal disease and healing after oral surgery.

Other problems diabetes can cause are dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth. Dry mouth happens when you don’t have enough saliva or spit. the fluid that keeps your mouth wet. Dry mouth can cause soreness, ulcers, infections, and increase your risk for tooth decay. Smoking makes these problems even worse.

The mouth body connection in diabetes goes in both directions. It’s all connected. If your diabetes isn’t under control, you’re more likely to develop problems in your mouth. And in turn, having gum disease may make your blood sugar harder to control. It’s been shown that treating gum disease in people with type two diabetes can lower their blood sugar over time, as well as a risk of having other problems from diabetes such as heart and kidney disease.

The good news, you can break the cycle with good oral health. It’s never too late to start incorporating strong dental hygiene habits. Taking good care of your teeth and gums can mean fewer complications from diabetes. and if you don’t have diabetes, taking care of your oral health is still incredibly important and beneficial.

Here are a few things that I recommend:

Be sure to take time to check your mouth regularly for any problems. Sometimes people with diabetes notice that their gums appear swollen and bleed when they brush and floss. Others notice dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth. All of these are reasons to visit a dentist.

And speaking of dental visits, visit your dentist for routine preventive care, at least two times per year, or more if you have a health condition. Your dentist will recommend how often you should be seen depending on your oral health and medical condition. Be honest with your dentist. Find a dentist that you trust and feel comfortable talking to, not just about your oral health, but your overall health too. Especially if you have diabetes. It’s really important for your dentist to know if you’re managing diabetes, because they’ll be able to provide proper treatment guidance, such as additional gum care.

Stay on top of your at-home oral care. Brush your teeth two times a day for two minutes and use a fluoridated toothpaste that has the ADA seal of approval. Also, use an alcohol-free mouthwash daily, and don’t forget to floss. Try a smart power toothbrush to track your brushing and get coaching tips. There are so many ways to stay on top of your oral and overall health, especially if you’re managing diabetes or another chronic health condition.

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