It is important for people living with type 2 diabetes to pay attention to all aspects of their health and wellbeing.
Here is an aspect of taking care of yourself to live powerfully with type 2 diabetes. It is taking care of your oral health.
Recent studies have shown an increased risk between poor oral health and heart disease.
The risk for heart disease increases even more when you have poor oral health and type 2 diabetes.
This is because diabetes already puts you at twice the risk of heart disease than the general population. So when you add poor oral health to the mix you more than double your risk.
The mouth has thousands of different bacteria, fungi and viruses. Normally with proper oral hygiene and well-functioning salivary glands, these do not cause any problems.
However when the mouth becomes unhealthy due to poor oral health then a number of dental problems can set in.
The most common teeth and gum problems associated with type 2 diabetes are:
fungal infections commonly called oral thrush
Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to tooth decay and gum disease
When blood sugar levels are not well controlled, this leads to hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can cause bacteria and fungi to thrive in the saliva. This leads to the development of plaque.
Plaque is a hard material that builds up in the mouth. It attaches to the surface and in between the teeth. It can also collect beneath the gum line. When this happens, the gums become inflamed. This is called periodontal disease.
People who do not have well controlled diabetes are at risk for periodontal disease. Eventually, the gum disease becomes so bad that they lose their teeth.
Here are some signs of periodontal disease. If you have any of these signs then see a dentist as soon as possible.
gums that bleed easily
red swollen and painful gums
pus in between teeth or when the gums are pressed
gums that have been pulled away from the teeth
Diabetes can also cause fungal infections
The mouth naturally has thousands of species of bacteria, viruses and fungi. The good thing is that the bodies natural defense system keeps them all in check so that they do not cause any problems.
Oral thrush is a fungal infection that can occur in people with type 2 diabetes.
There are several reasons why you can get fungal infections:
How to reduce dental problems
Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush. You can also use a electric toothbrush.
Floss between your teeth at least once a day
Change your toothbrush at least every 3 months
Disinfect your toothbrush regularly. You can place it in a microwave or a dishwasher.
Use an antimicrobial mouthwash
Use a toothpaste that has fluoride
Watch for any signs of dental problems and tell your dentist
Drink water regularly to keep the mouth moist
A dash of 100% peppermint essential oil in water is a great natural breath freshener.
See your dentist regularly
Schedule an appointment twice a year to see your dentist.
If you have any sores or pain in your mouth be sure to let your dentist know.
Let your dentist know if your blood sugars levels are out of control.
Also let your dentist know if there is any change in your medical history.
Do not take any oral medications that could lower your blood sugar before seeing the dentist.
If you are going to have dental work done and you are taking a blood thinner, be sure to let your dentist know this. The dentist will probably want to get a medical clearance from your primary healthcare provider.
So take the time to make sure that you pay attention to the health of your mouth. That way you will not go through the pain from lost teeth.
Let’s face it dental care to replace lost teeth can be very costly. So why not invest in prevention and not a cure?
Take an active role to improve your oral health and diabetes.
Dr Eno Nsima-Obot is a board certified Internal Medicine as well as a tra