November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and we’d love to use this time to talk about your gum health! That’s right, gum health during Diabetes Awareness Month because the two go hand in hand. We want to explore why that is and help you understand what patients with diabetes are up against, whether you are living with this condition or have a loved one who is.
Most people are required to attend classes about the diabetes condition when they are first diagnosed. Here in South Dakota, about 12% of the population is diagnosed with diabetes and 35% of the population has pre-diabetes, which means that their blood glucose level is high but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.
This has a great impact on the oral health of our state. Yes, you read that correctly. The oral health of our state is impacted by diabetes just as the diabetes in our state is impacted by oral health. The two are entwined in a complex and potentially detrimental relationship that must be monitored by both your general care physician and your dentist.
Know the Ins & Outs of Diabetes and Gum Disease
Don’t worry, we are not going to go into a deep explanation of this relationship, but it is important for you to understand the basics of this situation that is affecting a huge percentage of our population. The numbers are truly staggering, and they get worse each year. Gum disease alone will affect more than half of the adult population, and we know that gum disease is linked with other life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, and low birthweight babies.
Diabetes is not immune. The bacteria that are responsible for gum disease can actually work into the bloodstream and affect the function of other parts of your body. Research shows that this bacteria makes it very difficult to control blood glucose levels. Imagine if you are already diabetic (or are pre-diabetic). A gum disease infection could make it very difficult for you to keep your condition under control, which can lead to a slew of other concerns.
Unfortunately, there is a flipside to this coin. Not only will gum disease affect your diabetes effects, but one of the effects of diabetes will make you more likely to develop gum disease! Diabetes makes it more difficult for your body to fight bacterial infections. This means that even if you’ve always had a healthy mouth, you are at higher risk for gum disease due to your diabetes diagnosis.
As we said earlier, it is a complex relationship. You can see how there is the potential for disaster. If both gum disease and diabetes remain unchecked, the patient will become very unhealthy very quickly.
Prevent Infection & Control Blood Glucose Levels
There is a secret sauce, so to speak, to maintaining health, except that it is no secret. The keys to maintaining a healthy smile and healthy body are the same as they have always been:
- Brush well. You must brush at least twice each and every day. If you are struggling to keep gum disease at bay, consider brushing after each meal. Use a soft-bristled brush and a fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss often. Flossing is the one key to maintain gum health. It’s the best weapon in your drawer when it comes to fighting periodontal infection. Surround each tooth with floss and gently move the floss up and down each tooth at least once per day.
- See your doctors regularly. Most patients only need to see us once every six months, but if you are struggling to keep periodontal disease under control, we might recommend that you visit the office more often. Periodontal patients will often come in every 3-4 months in order to stay on top of their potential gum problems. See your primary care physician often as well.
Solving the gum disease crisis will not solve the diabetes crisis, but it is a start. Even if you are not at risk for diabetes, gum disease is still a very likely infection. Call our dentist office in Aberdeen right now at 605-277-9049. We’d love to see you very soon and help you have a healthier, more beautiful smile.