Dental Care Basics

RFS-dentist-from-inside-the-mouthTooth and gum problems can happen to anyone but people with diabetes are more likely to have gum problems resulting in tooth loss. Understanding the basics of dental care is an important part of good diabetes self-care.

A sticky film full of germs (called plaque) builds up on your teeth. High blood glucose helps germs (bacteria) grow. Then you can get red, sore, and swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth.  People with diabetes can have tooth and gum problems more often if their blood glucose stays high. High blood glucose can make tooth and gum problems worse. You can even lose your teeth.

Smoking also makes it more likely for you to get a gum disease, especially if you have diabetes and are age 45 or older.

Red, sore, and bleeding gums are the first sign of gum disease. This can lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis is an infection in the gums and the bone that holds the teeth in place. If the infection gets worse, your gums may pull away from your teeth.

Check your teeth and gums for signs of problems from diabetes

If you have one or more of these problems, you may have tooth and gum damage from diabetes:

  • Red, sore, swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Gums pulling away from your teeth so your teeth look long
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Bad breath
  • A bite that feels different
  • Dentures that do not fit well

See your dentist at least twice yearly

A dentist may identify problems early before they become more difficult or costly to repair. If your dentist tells you about a problem, take care of it right away. Be sure your dentist knows that you have diabetes.

How can my dentist take care of my teeth and gums?

  • Cleaning and checking your teeth and gums twice a year
  • Helping you learn the best way to brush and floss your teeth and gums
  • Telling you if you have problems with your teeth or gums and what to do about them
  • Making sure dentures fit well
  • Call your dentist if you have red, sore or bleeding gums; gums that are pulling away from your teeth
  • A sore tooth that could be infected; or soreness from your dentures. Your dentist will know the appropriate treatment for your condition

How can I keep my teeth and gums healthy?

Keep your blood glucose as close to normal as possible. This is the most important thing you can do to maintain good health.

Brush your teeth after each meal and snack. Use a soft toothbrush. Turn the bristles against the gum line and brush gently. Use small, circular motions. Brush the front, back, and top of each tooth.

Use dental floss at least once a day. Flossing helps prevent the buildup of plaque on your teeth. Plaque can harden and grow under your gums and cause problems. Using a  gentle motion bring the floss between the teeth, place the floss on the surface of the tooth and scrape from bottom to top several times.

If you wear dentures or removable bridges, keep them clean. Bacteria can still stick to them so keep them clean.

If you smoke quit. Talk to your doctor or your dentist about ways to quit smoking – both will have plenty of advice.

For more information on:

Dental Complications of Diabetes

Dental Care for People with Diabetes

How to Choose a Dentist if You Have Diabetes