What's the main cause of tooth decay in diabetes?

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People with diabetes have a high concentration of sugar in their blood, which increases plaque build up. To prevent this, keep your teeth clean and watch sugar and carbohydrate intake. Make sure you are seeing your dentist on regular recall visits for professional cleanings and exams. Use a fluoride toothpaste and ask your dentist if he feels that you should have additional fluoride supplements based on medications you may be taking that cause dry mouth.

Research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes. The goal of your daily tooth brushing and flossing is to clean away plaque. When plaque stays put, it hardens into tartar. Tartar builds up under the gum line. More plaque forms over the tartar. Only your dentist or dental hygienist can get tartar off your teeth.

If you have teeth, you have to clean them with brush and floss to keep them and the surrounding gums healthy. The brush alone will not clean between the teeth, no matter how hard you try. You must use floss, or other interproximal cleaning device recommended by your dentist, hygienist or dental assistant.

Flossing should be an important part of your oral hygiene regimen. It is an essential tool in helping to prevent decay and gum disease by removing plaque accumulation on the teeth. Also, diabetes can affect the health of the gums and diseased gums may also have an effect on control of diabetes. The American Dental Association states that “Treating gum disease in people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar control. Conversely, not taking care of the problem can make it more difficult to keep blood sugar levels under control. The resulting high blood sugar can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body.” Therefore, it is obviously better to prevent and/or control gum disease than to require professional treatment of the disease and its ongoing problems.

Carol Jahn
Dentist

People with diabetes are at an increased risk for gum disease. Therefore it is very important to practice good home care each day. Brushing twice daily with a manual or power brush is the first step. Cleaning between teeth is often overlooked yet necessary to maintain good gum health. Because floss is challenging to use for many people, they simply 'forget' to do it. The good news is that other product like toothpicks and interproximal brushes are great alternatives to floss and easy to use. One product, the Water Flosser has been shown to be as effective as string floss and to reduce bleeding and gingivitis effectively in people with diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease which directly impacts the soft tissues; gums and salivary glands, and can indirectly effect the teeth. Daily flossing and brushing along with regular visits to the dentists are the foundational principles for diabetics. If salivary flow has diminished, the mouth becomes dry, and more susceptible to decay. Two strategies are helpful; firstly sugar-free candies or xylitol gum can help stimulate more saliva. Secondly, use a prescription fluoride toothpaste in the morning and before bed to help strengthen and re-mineralize the teeth.

Your dentist will have to be vigilant about gingival problems which diabetics are more prone to. However, controlling your diabetes helps prevent these problems. Excellent oral hygiene with regular effective brushing and flossing, coupled with dental check-ups every six months is key.

Patients with diabetes can have a higher rate of tooth decay. Diabetes causes a higher concentration of sugar in the blood and also in the saliva. Dental plaque bacteria use sugars to make acid, which causes cavities. Since diabetics have a higher concentration of sugar in their saliva, they are more susceptible to tooth decay. See your dentist for regular dental exams and cleanings if you have diabetes.

Tooth decay in diabetes is the result of plaque bacteria metabolizing dietary sugars. Plaque is a sticky biofilm that forms on the surfaces of teeth. While brushing your teeth regularly for two minutes each time is the way to remove plaque, it comes back within 20 minutes of eating at mealtime or snacks. If plaque is not removed by regular tooth brushing, then it builds up, hardens and forms into tartar. Tartar must be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist using a tool to scrape the tartar off the tooth and gums. Plaque and tartar can lead to gingivitis (early gum disease), periodontitis (severe gum disease that results in bone destruction and tooth loss) and tooth decay (holes in the tooth).

There are no secrets to preventing tooth decay with diabetes. To avoid tooth decay, you should reduce the frequency of sugar intakes and reduce the plaque bacteria with regular brushing and flossing each day. You can strengthen your teeth by using fluoride and special rinses that strengthen the teeth. Dental experts recommend that children and adults use toothpaste with fluoride to keep teeth strong and healthy.

Diabetics suffer from decay at a higher rate than do non-diabetics probably due to a myriad of factors including the higher sugar content in saliva as well as some metabolic issues that are yet well understood. The concept though is simple, avoidance by intricate care and preventive measures!

Individuals with diabetes can have higher levels of sugar in their saliva, just as they can have higher levels in their blood. The sugary saliva allows bacteria to grow at a more rapid rate and quickly make sticky plaque formations on the teeth. Bacteria in plaque secrete acid in a concentrated area and eventually demineralize the enamel (i.e., tooth decay).

Higher saliva-sugar levels mean more plaque. More plaque means more risk of tooth decay.

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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.