How can I prevent dental problems with diabetes?

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The best way to prevent dental problems with diabetes is to see your dentist regularly and make daily oral care part of your personal hygiene regimen. You should brush your teeth two or three times a day for at least two minutes each time. In addition, make sure you floss once a day to get food and debris out. Once a month, have an oral checkup by examining your teeth and mouth. Touch your teeth and gums to see if there is tenderness, soreness or bleeding. Notice if there is a loose tooth or misaligned tooth. If you see any problems, call your dentist and make an appointment to get the problems checked out. With a combination of home care, careful observation and dental care, you can prevent dental problems and enjoy healthy teeth and gums.

Another way to prevent dental problems when you have diabetes is to focus on a healthy, balanced diet that helps you to manage your blood glucose levels. Your doctor or diabetes educator will provide you with a healthy diet to follow. Some food choices on the diet may include the following:  

  • fruits and vegetables
  • fish
  • poultry
  • lean cuts of meat
  • eggs
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • legumes
  • low-fat dairy
  • whole grains (breads, cereals, pastas, brown rice, oatmeal)
  • soy products

It's important to eat small portions of protein (meat, poultry) and larger portions of vegetables and fruits to manage your blood glucose. Also, avoid eating bad fat (saturated and trans fats) and foods high in sugar and salt.

Carol Jahn
Dentist

People with diabetes are at greater risk for gum inflammation and about 3 times more likely to have periodontal disease. Those at the greatest risk are people who have a hard time controlling their blood sugar so from a general health perspective, the better your blood sugar control, the better your chance of preventing dental problems.

All people with diabetes, regardless of the level of control, need to have regular cleanings and exams with their dental hygienist and dentist. They may recommend  more frequent visits. On the home care front, good daily oral hygiene is a must. One study has shown that people with diabetes who added a water flosser to their home care regimen had a 44 percent better reduction in bleeding and a 41 percent better reduction in gum inflammation over people who did not use a water flosser.

To help prevent dental problems if you have diabetes, first and foremost, control your blood glucose level. Then, take good care of your teeth and gums, along with regular checkups every six months. To control thrush, a fungal infection, maintain good diabetic control, avoid smoking and, if you wear them, remove and clean dentures daily. Good blood glucose control can also help prevent or relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.

Continue Learning about Diabetes and Oral Health

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.