Diabetes affects the entire body, including the mouth. People with diabetes face a higher than normal risk of oral health problems because of their blood sugar levels.

Uncontrolled diabetes interferes with white blood cells, which reduce the body’s resistance to infection. Diabetes also causes blood vessels to thicken, which can slow the flow of nutrients and exiting of waste.

Gum disease, also known as “periodontal disease”, is a bacterial infection that affects the gum tissues and bone, which serve to keep your teeth in place. There are two levels of gum disease: gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (serious gum disease).

The 26 million Americans who have diabetes may be surprised to learn that there is an increasing number of gum disease cases among people with diabetes.

Studies show that people with diabetes who do not control their blood sugar can develop gum disease more frequently than people who better manage their diabetes. High glucose levels (sugar) in saliva can promote growth of bacteria that causes gum disease.

Some of the symptoms of gum disease include: red and swollen gums, loose teeth, gums that bleed easily, gums separating from teeth, and changes in the way that teeth fit together.

People with diabetes should control their blood sugar levels, avoid smoking, eat a well-balanced diet, practice good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), and get dental check-ups more often than those without diabetes.

During these dental visits, be sure to tell your dentist and hygienist that you have diabetes so that he or she can do additional checks for any signs of early gum disease. Also, keep your dentist and hygienist informed about any medication you might be taking. Write down the names and doses of the medicines you use.

Tell your dentist your HgA1C level to help them determine how controlled your diabetes is (good control is usually a level under 7%). Also, mention if you’ve had a hypoglycemic episode in the past (also called an insulin reaction). Tell your dentist how often this happens and when you took your last dose of insulin, if you take it.

Make sure to give your dentist your diabetes doctor's name and phone number to include in your personal file. This information should be accessible by your dentist, should any questions or problems arise.

If any oral surgery is planned, your doctor or dentist will tell you if you need to take any pre-surgical antibiotics, change your meal schedule, or change the timing of your insulin, if you take it.

People with diabetes need to choose a dentist office that is equipped to meet their special needs. To make an appointment with an experienced dentist and dental staff who can help you care for your teeth, call 949-760-0363 today. Our dental professionals know the specialized care that people with diabetes need.