How Sugar Affects Your Oral Health

How Sugar Affects Your Oral Health

Nov 11, 2013

November is American Diabetes Month. Raising awareness of this growing disease is an important part of reducing the instances of diabetes in the U.S. There are many issues surrounding diabetes and the people impacted by it.

According to the American Diabetes Association, there are over 26 million people with diabetes in the U.S. In addition, another 79 million people have prediabetes, which means they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The cost of treating diagnosed diabetes in $245 billion in the U.S. alone.

Diabetes can damage many parts of the body if not managed. It can lead to:

  • Heart attacks
  • Stokes
  • Amputation
  • Blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage

Blood Glucose Levels

People with diabetes need to carefully monitor their blood glucose levels. Foods high in sugar, such as candy, cookies, and pies, will cause blood glucose to rise. These foods can also damage your teeth. Sugary foods, especially stick candies, sit on your teeth, exposing them the enamel to damaging acids. Sucrose has been proven to lower calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride on the teeth. In addition, when you fill your diet with sugary foods, you don’t eat as many healthy fruits and vegetables. There are certain crispy fruits and vegetables that actually protect your teeth from bacteria.

Diabetes and Gum Disease

People who have diabetes are also at a higher risk for dental problems, especially the development of gum disease. The high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes can cause gum disease to worsen quickly. Unfortunately having gum disease makes it harder to control blood glucose levels, creating a vicious circle. Dental issues associated with diabetes are not limited to gum disease. You are also prone to oral infections, thrush, and dry mouth.

It’s important to let your dentist know if you have diabetes. Inform your dentist of any medications you are taking. Do not have any non-emergency dental procedures while your blood sugar is not under control. You may not know that you have gum disease because symptoms are not always clear.

Seeing your dentist regularly will prevent gum disease, and also increase the chance that your gum disease will be diagnosed early. Catching gum disease in its early stage, called gingivitis can protect it from developing into periodontitis, which often requires surgery.

Recognizing Signs of Gum Disease

About 80 percent of all people will develop gum disease at some point.  It can develop at any age, although children and teens with diabetes are at a greater risk than those without diabetes. Some signs you can watch for include:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Swollen, tender gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in your bite
  • Pus between teeth and gums

Importance of Dental Care

If you do have diabetes, one of the most important things you can do to prevent gum disease is to control your blood glucose level. Also see your dentist for an exam and cleaning at least once every six months. In the meantime, self-care is essential. Brush at least two minutes each day with an anti-gingival toothpaste accepted by the American Dental Association (ADA).

First, control your blood glucose level. Then take good care of your teeth and gums, along with regular dental check-ups every six months. Remember, you can prevent diabetes complications by properly managing blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  Eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and exercising regularly will also lower your risk of complications.

For more information about diabetes and your dental health, see “The Connection Between Diabetes and Your Oral Health.”

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