Dental Care for People with Diabetes

Good Oral Hygiene Helps Prevent Tooth and Gum Problems

Keeping a healthy mouth can help prevent oral disease. Regular dental care for people with diabetes is particularly important, as they are more prone to periodontal disease and other oral complications.

“It is imperative to our overall health to have a healthy mouth,” American Dental Hygienist Association President Caryn Solie, RDH, said. “Brushing, flossing, rinsing with an anti-microbial mouth rinse and chewing sugar free gum are easy ways to help avoid issues that could affect the status of your oral health.”

Brushing.   Brushing your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day remains a critical component to maintaining a healthy smile. Studies have shown that brushing for two minutes is the single most important step an individual can take to reduce plaque build-up and the risk of plaque-associated diseases, such as cavities and gingivitis.

RFS - toothbrush (2)Proper brushing is essential for cleaning teeth and gums effectively. Use a toothbrush with soft, nylon, round-ended bristles. Soft bristles will not scratch teeth or damage gums. Many dentists may recommend an electric toothbrush. If you can’t afford one, you can still achieve good results with a manual toothbrush and bit of diligence.

Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. In addition to the bristles wearing out and becoming less effective at cleaning, researchers have determined that thousands of microbes grow on toothbrush surfaces. Most are harmless, but others can cause cold and flu viruses, the herpes virus that causes cold sores and bacteria that can cause periodontal infections.

Select a toothpaste with a flavor you like and discuss with your dentist or dental hygienist the benefits of fluoride, anti-plaque or anti-tartar toothpaste as part of your dental care regimen.

RFS - brushing_1Place the bristles of the toothbrush along the gum line at a 45 degree angle. The bristles should have contact with both the tooth and the gum line. Develop a pattern for brushing your teeth. For example, begin on the top jaw and move from left to right.

Gently brush the outer tooth surfaces of 2-3 teeth using very small circles or a back & forth RFS - brushing_2rolling motion. Move brush to the next group of 2-3 teeth and repeat until the entire row of teeth is completed on both the outside surface and inside surface.

RFS - brushing_3Tilt brush vertically behind the front teeth. Make several up & down strokes using the front half of the brush.

Place the brush against the biting surface of the teeth & use a gentle RFS - brushing_4back & forth scrubbing motion. Don’t forget to brush the tongue from back to front to remove odor-producing bacteria.

— Illustrations adapted by and used courtesy of the John O. Butler Company and the American Dental Hygienists Association

Flossing. Proper flossing removes plaque and food particles in places where your toothbrush can’t reach — under the gum line and between your teeth. Because plaque build-up can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, daily flossing is highly recommended. For people who are prone to gingivitis, brushing and flossing may be recommended after every meal and at bedtime.

Dentists say regular flossing is probably the greatest home care challenge for their patients. Studies reveal only 16% of periodontal patients comply with the recommended maintenance schedules.

If you find flossing difficult, be sure to ask your dental hygienist about the variety of dental floss, (besides waxed or unwaxed) with different thicknesses, filaments, and coatings holders or inter-dental cleaning devices that are available. Any product or technique that can make flossing easier will be more likely to make it actually happen!

Special appliances or tools may also be recommended for people who are particularly prone to plaque deposits.

RFS - flossing_1Wind the ends of 18″ of floss around middle fingers of each hand. Pinch floss between thumbs and index fingers, leaving a 1″- 2″ length in between. Use thumbs to direct floss between upper teeth.

Keep a 1″ – 2″ length of floss taut between fingers. Use index fingers RFS - flossing_2to guide floss between contacts of the lower teeth.

RFS - flossing_3Gently guide floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag or back and forth motion. DO NOT snap or force the floss between your teeth, as this can cause damage to your gum tissue.

Contour floss around the side of the tooth. Gently slide floss up and down against the tooth RFS - flossing_4surface and under the gum line. Floss each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss.

— Illustrations adapted by and used courtesy of the John O. Butler Company and the American Dental Hygienists Association

Rinse. Rinsing your mouth each day with an anti-microbial mouth rinse is another important step in preventing periodontal disease. Your dental hygienist can give you more information on which mouth rinse is right for you.

 Chew. A little known part of good oral hygiene is rather surprising: chewing sugar-free gum after eating. This has been clinically proven to be an important part of good oral health.

RFS - extra chewing gumChewing gum stimulates the most important natural defense against tooth decay, saliva. Made up of over 99% water, saliva has three main protective functions: it dilutes and washes away food particles and dietary sugars; neutralizes and buffers plaque acids; the calcium and phosphate ions in the saliva help with re-mineralization of early caries lesions.

Chew for 20 – 30 minutes after eating or, if you suffer from dry mouth, when needed. When chewing is incorporated into the daily oral healthcare routine, especially after eating and drinking, it positively affects oral health.

“Brush, Floss, Rinse, Chew” is an easy reminder that maintaining good oral hygiene habits can have lasting effects.

Regular professional teeth cleaning, at least twice yearly, is important to remove plaque that may develop, even with careful brushing and flossing.