Good dental health and diabetes control go hand-in-hand

Did you know that your dentist might be the first health professional to identify diabetes?

By seeing your dentist twice a year, infections such as gum disease can be diagnosed. Gum disease is caused by the plaque that builds up on your teeth. This plaque needs to be removed twice a day by brushing, in order to prevent the build-up of bacteria that may lead to the development of gum inflammation.

Other causes of gum inflammation include:

  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor oral hygiene and having crooked teeth that makes good hygiene more difficult
  • Diabetes

Yes, research is showing that periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums) may be associated with diabetes. People with diabetes tend to have more gum disease and infections. Poor blood glucose control makes gum problems more likely. Gum disease also makes chewing food more difficult. This difficulty encourages people with diabetes to choose soft, easy to chew foods. Fresh vegetables and lean protein often are put aside in favor of easy to chew snack and processed foods, which are often higher in fat, salt and sugar.

According to the American Dental Association symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Red, swollen, tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your dentist. Meanwhile, here are some tips to help you prevent gum disease:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Avoid eating sweet and sticky foods such as chewy candies and candied or dried fruit
  • Plan healthy meals and snacks that include fresh, dark green vegetables and low-fat dairy products that are both good sources of calcium
  • Visit your dentist twice a year

Practice good oral health and lower your risk of developing diabetes. If you have diabetes, practice good oral health habits to lower your risk of developing complications. Both go hand-in-hand so follow good healthy practices every day.

For more information on making healthy food and lifestyle choices, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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