November marks an important month at our Punta Gorda dental office: Diabetes Awareness Month. It may seem odd that your dentist office is concerned about diabetes, but it’s actually a very important part of oral health care for some of our patients. Today, we want to talk about what that looks like and why we are so concerned about it! We’ll also take a look at things any person can do to protect their smile from gum disease, so let’s begin.

First, a story.

Sheryl is a diabetic patient who was having trouble keeping her blood glucose levels under control. After her initial diagnosis, Sheryl took classes, changed her diet, began exercising, and made all of the life changes you would expect in order to regain her health. It worked for a while, but things were starting to go downhill again.

Sheryl’s doctor kept changing medications and never really presented a solution, so Sheryl switched doctors. Her new doctor asked her when she had last been to the dentist. It had been quite a while, so Sheryl made an appointment.

After her initial cleaning, Sheryl learned that she was facing advanced periodontal disease. She accepted her treatment plan and put in several months of cleanings, treatment, and work at home with her new water flosser. Slowly but surely, her gums healed. Something else happened, too. Her blood sugar readings improved. Coincidence? We think not.

The Cyclical Connection Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

It is no secret that the health of your mouth affects the rest of your body. Research studies show again and again that gum disease infection is linked with heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, low birthweight babies, and some cancers. It is also linked with a rapid progression of diabetes.

Gum disease bacteria can get in the bloodstream and wreak absolute havoc. The biggest problem for diabetic patients is that this bacteria makes it really difficult to control blood sugar levels. If you cannot control your levels, the disease progresses faster because your body is being harmed by the high glucose levels.

You may be thinking that you’re safe from this because you’ve always had a healthy mouth before. Remember that diabetes affects your ability to fight infection. So an already prevalent gum disease is even more likely to affect diabetic patients because they are less able to fight it off. So diabetes makes you more likely to have gum disease, and gum disease makes it more difficult to control your diabetes. It’s a dangerous cycle!

The good news is that there are measures you can take to protect yourself from gum disease, and they should be absolutely no surprise to you.

  1. Brush your teeth at least twice each day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and spend at least 30 seconds on each quadrant of your mouth for a total of 2 minutes of brushing time.
  2. Floss really well at least once per day. Wrap the floss all the way around the tooth and gentle glide it up and down. This is the best way to remove bacteria from the surfaces of your teeth. Remember Sheryl’s water flosser? Consider getting one for yourself!
  3. Visit our office often. Visit our office at least twice per year. If you find that gum disease is difficult to get rid of or control, we will likely recommend that you come in for cleanings every 3-4 months instead of every 6 months. This will allow us to help you keep the infection under control.

Just because you have diabetes does not mean that you have to give up on the health of your teeth. Call our office today at 941-585-0424 to make an appointment. The sooner we can help you get rid of the gum infection, the sooner you’ll see improvements in your overall health.