Dianne L. Sefo, RDH, BA From Colgate.com
Approximately 29 million Americans struggle with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and of this population, one in four is unaware of the condition.
Another one third of Americans have blood sugar levels that qualify them as prediabetic – blood sugar that is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diabetic. Due to the prevalence of this condition, it is critical to know how it can affect your body, and what to do when you detect these side effects – including diabetes gum problems.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is an illness that increases the risk for various health complications such as skin disorders, blindness, nerve damage, heart disease, kidney disease and gum disease. The condition denotes the body’s inability to produce or process insulin on its own, and therefore blood sugar is harder to control. Some types of diabetes are preventable, so taking care of yourself is an important part of reducing your risk.
Colgate® Total has joined an initiative with the American Diabetes Association to educate consumers and oral health care providers on the link between gum disease and diabetes. Topics include free health screenings, cooking demonstrations, information and resources about diabetes management and prevention. Colgate and the ADA are increasing awareness of diabetes and the importance of oral care as it relates to the management of diabetes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
How Does it Relate to Gum Disease?
Research suggests the relationship between diabetes and gum disease is a two-way street. Gums that are red, bleed easily or even recede from the teeth are all common symptoms of gum disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are more likely to contract gum disease because of an increased susceptibility to infection and reduced ability to fight the germs that irritate the gums. At the same time, gum disease makes it difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar, leading to the progression of the disease.
What Can I Do?
If you are diabetic and want to prevent diabetes gum problems, you must first control your blood glucose levels. If your blood sugar is not well regulated, you may need to postpone any non-emergency dental procedures. People diagnosed with diabetes and prediabetes need to be extra proactive with their oral health. Good oral habits should include brushing for two minutes twice a day and using floss at least once a day. Even with these good habits, professional dental cleanings may need to be scheduled more often, every three to four months, in order to maintain oral wellness. Make sure you see your dentist if you experience any signs of gum disease – such as red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums, bad breath or loose teeth. Other oral health problems associated with diabetes include fungal infection and dry mouth.
Learn more about diabetes and oral health in the Colgate Oral Care resources.
About the author: Dianne L. Sefo is a dental hygienist and dental hygiene educator. She has been involved in various publications, has worked in private practices in New York and Southern California, and has been a faculty member at Monroe Community College, Concorde Career College – San Diego, and New York University.