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Diabetes Can Be Diagnosed by Your Dentist

Save your teeth and your life.

Recent research indicates that diabetics have an abnormally high risk for periodontal disease. Diabetes is associated with a higher than normal degree of gum inflammation. Treating periodontal disease and reducing bacteria in the body are important in managing diabetes and saving your teeth.

   If you  do not see your doctor at least once a year, chances are you are not seeing your dentist either. Dentists play an important role in detecting undiagnosed diabetes and managing the dental effects of diabetes and periodontal disease.

   When you have diabetes, high blood sugar can take a toll on your entire body — including your teeth and gums. The good news? Prevention is in your hands. Learn what  you are up against, and then take charge of your dental health.

Cavities and gum disease

Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, managing your blood sugar level is key. The higher your blood sugar level, the higher your risk of:

• Tooth decay (cavities). Your mouth naturally contains many types of bacteria. When starches and sugars in food and beverages interact with these bacteria, a sticky film known as plaque forms on your teeth. The acids in plaque attack the hard, outer surface of your teeth (enamel). This can lead to cavities. The higher your blood sugar level, the greater the supply of sugars and starches — and the more acid wearing away at your teeth.

• Early gum disease (gingivitis). Diabetes reduces your ability to fight bacteria, which can cause more plaque to build up on your teeth. If you don’t remove plaque with regular brushing and flossing, it will harden under your gum line into a substance called tartar (calculus). The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more they irritate the gingiva — the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. In time, your gums become swollen and bleed easily. This is gingivitis.

Advanced gum disease (periodontitis). Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a more serious infection called periodontitis, which destroys the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. Eventually, periodontitis causes your gums to pull away from your teeth and your teeth to loosen and even fall out. Periodontitis tends to be more severe among people who have diabetes because diabetes lowers the ability to resist infection and slows healing. An infection such as periodontitis may also cause your blood sugar level to rise, which makes your diabetes more difficult to control. Preventing and treating periodontitis can help improve blood sugar control.

Proper dental care

To help prevent damage to your teeth and gums, take diabetes and dental care seriously:

Make a commitment to managing your diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar level, and follow your doctor’s instructions for keeping your blood sugar level within your target range. The better you control your blood sugar level, the less likely you are to develop gingivitis and other dental problems.

• Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Brush in the morning, at night and, ideally, after meals and snacks. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. Avoid vigorous or harsh scrubbing, which can irritate your gums. Consider using an electric toothbrush, especially if you have arthritis or other problems that make it difficult to brush well.

• Floss your teeth at least once a day. Flossing helps remove plaque between your teeth and under your gum line. If you have trouble getting floss through your teeth, use the waxed variety. If it’s hard to manipulate the floss, use a floss holder.

• Take special precautions with dental surgery. If you are having dental surgery, make sure that your dentist consults with your doctor ahead of time. You may need to adjust your diabetes medications or take an antibiotic to prevent infection.

• Look for early signs of gum disease. Report any signs of gum disease — including redness, swelling and bleeding gums — to your dentist. Also mention any other signs and symptoms such as dry mouth, loose teeth or mouth pain.

• Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of serious diabetes complications, including gum disease. If you smoke, ask your doctor about options to help you quit.

•  Routine oral exams can  help provide early detection by identifying health problems like diabetes, which left untreated can lead to serious health complications, including kidney disease, heart disease and stroke, nerve damage, blindness, and death. What does he see in an oral exam that helps him diagnose diabetes? This is mentioned in the title and twice in the text, but it never explains how an exam leads to a diagnosis.

We want people to understand that managing diabetes is a lifelong commitment, and that includes proper dental care. Your efforts will be rewarded with a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

  “Also we want people to know that routine trips to the dentist every six months can lead to more than just a nice smile. It can lead to early detection and management of a serious disease, like diabetes.”

Other Articles / Issue 1:

Handy Tools to Help Control Diabetes

Understanding the Diabetic Foot

What is Diabetes?

The Importance of Education of the Patient

Food that is Diabetic Friendly

Diabetes Can be Diagnosed by Your Dentist

Book Review: The Diabetes DTour Diet

Other Articles / Issue 2:

Pediatric Heel Pain

Posture 101

Pediatric Sleep Apnea


Q & A - Eye Vision

Alcohol & Drug Abuse


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