Diabetes and oral health
Whilst blood sugar control may be the most immediate concern for people affected by diabetes, it’s also important to take special care of the mouth, due to a potentially high risk of oral disease. For World Diabetes Day (14 November) our oral hygiene advisor Dirna Grobbelaar, shares expert information on maintaining a healthy mouth even when you have diabetes.
Oral health conditions associated with diabetes include gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. Emerging research suggests a link between poorer glycaemic control in people and advanced gum disease (periodontitis).
The cause of many of the oral health problems that can affect people with diabetes is increased levels of glucose in the saliva. This creates an ideal breeding ground for the oral bacteria that cause bad breath, cavities and gum disease. People with diabetes also tend to have a lower resistance to infection and heal more slowly, which can exacerbate gum problems.
The best approach is prevention, through meticulous oral care. Brush correctly for two minutes, at least twice a day. Use a manual or power brush with soft bristles. Daily flossing to clean in-between is important. If you find floss too firm, try an interdental brush or gentle Sunstar GUM Soft-Picks. After eating, or for extra freshness, rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash like Dentyl Dual Action or Sunstar GUM antibacterial mouthrinse.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is another common side effect, an estimated 42% of people with diabetes experience reduced saliva flow. It may be an early sign prior to a diabetes diagnosis. Because saliva is the body’s natural way of cleaning the mouth, plaque and bacteria build up more quickly in a dry mouth, increasing the likelihood of gum disease, decay and bad breath. Drinking water will give temporary relief and chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow. There are also products especially developed to help produce saliva, such as Sunstar GUM Hydral Moisturising Gel and Moisturising Spray that lubricate, soothe, promote soft tissue repair and create a protective coating in the mouth.
Bleeding gums usually indicate gum disease, which is reversible if treated correctly in the early stages. You might find your gums bleed a little if you start flossing or become more diligent in your oral care routine. However this should only last a day or two, so it’s important to consult your dental professional if your gums bleed for longer. Treatment products like Sunstar GUM’s antibacterial mouth rinse and toothpaste are recommended.
Work as a team with your dentist and oral hygienist. Ensure that they know that you have diabetes. Book a check-up and professional clean at least every six months, or more if necessary. Here’s to living healthier with diabetes!