Twice a day and twice a year are numbers to remember: the number of times to brush your teeth and see your dentist. And then there is the other twice, or at least once—the number of times to floss your teeth per day. The state of your diabetes control affects your mouth, and the state of your mouth can have critical consequences for your heart.
Periodontal disease is the most common oral health problem in people with diabetes. , And, no surprise, high blood glucose levels are to blame. Periodontal disease (PD) is an infection whose inflammatory changes damage the bone and gums around your teeth.
When your blood glucose is high, it is high in all the fluids in the body including the fluid around your teeth and gums. The bacteria in your mouth feed on the glucose and cause inflammation. Sustained inflammatory processes can destroy the bone, gums and cause massive tooth loss.
Because high blood glucose levels can prevent your gums from fighting off infection, they can contribute to a host of oral problems including
- Gingivitis or peritonitis (inflammation of various parts of the mouth)
- Tooth loss
- Thrush (a fungal infection in the mouth)
- Dry mouth
Inflammation is also bad for your heart. It can increase your risk of heart disease and people with periodontitis can also come down with infections in the cardiac tissue. In fact, people with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have heart disease.
One theory suggests that the bacteria in the mouth enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart where they attach to plaque deposits accelerating blood clot formation. Another theory hypothesizes that the inflammation caused by PD itself speeds plague growth.
In addition, existing periodontal disease may be more difficult to treat when glucose levels are high and continue to serve as a food source for bacteria. And because periodontal disease is an infection, it will contribute to higher glucose levels and the need for more insulin.
So in addition to all that brushing and flossing and your regular bi-yearly check ups, see your dentist if you experience any
- Bleeding gums
- Swollen, dark red gums
- Teeth shifting, moving, separating, or loosening
- Breath not remaining fresh after brushing and flossing
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Change in the way your teeth close when biting down
- Family history of early, unexplained tooth loss
And of course
- Keep your blood glucose in target range
- Stop smoking if you smoke
- Eat a well-balanced diet and remain physically active