Dentists, diabetes, and you: Effects diabetes has on teeth and gums

In South Dakota, about one in ten people have diabetes. That equals about 71,000 people. Another 21,000 have it but don’t know.  This is concerning because without a diagnosis it can be hard to manage the condition.

While a medical doctor is often the first to see symptoms of diabetes, your dentist is another professional that can spot signs of the condition during your preventive check-ups. Diabetes can have a serious impact on your oral health, therefore it’s important to properly manage the disease if you’re diagnosed.

Diabetes in South Dakota and the US

Diabetes is one of the most common types of chronic disease in America, which is why it’s important to understand the effect of diabetes on oral health.

More shockingly, as many as 218,000 South Dakotans are prediabetic, meaning they have a higher than normal blood sugar but it’s not high enough to be considered diabetic. That’s why it’s important to keep track of any changes in your oral or physical health. Untreated diabetes can lead to serious medical complications and even death.

It’s vital to go to preventive medical and dental appointments where professionals can help manage the disease for better oral and overall health.

Diabetes and oral health

Diabetes impacts many parts of the body, including the mouth and teeth. If diabetes is left untreated, patients may experience the following symptoms

  • A higher risk of cavities and tooth decay
  • Increased risk of developing gum disease
  • A higher risk of developing an infection in the gum and bone that hold teeth in place
  • Tooth loss
  • Dry mouth due to less saliva production
  • Bad breath

During your regular preventive check-ups, your dentist can keep tabs on any changes in your oral health related to diabetes. Additionally, maintaining good dental health habits and receiving professional cleanings from your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c, or your average blood glucose levels.

It’s a two-way street! 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.

Reducing your risk of diabetes

Preventing diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes, is one of the best ways to take care of your oral and physical health. Medical professionals recommend the following to reduce your risk of developing the disease:

  • Eat more plant-based food such as leafy greens, legumes, fruits from trees, and whole grains
  • Skip trendy diets and focus on maintenance
  • Lose excess weight
  • Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Increase good fats, such as olive oil and nuts, in your diet

Dental appointments are important for oral and overall health

Visits with your dentist are important for oral and overall health. Not only do dentists keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy, but they are also on the lookout for changes in your overall health. Small changes in your mouth may not mean much to you, but for dentists they can indicate bigger problems such as diabetes, oral cancer, and other medical conditions.