Proper dental hygiene is healthy for everyone. Did you know that it is especially important for people with diabetes and those trying to prevent diabetes? This blog was written to honor a special request to provide current information on teeth and gums and diabetes. In writing this piece, I find it necessary to define the term periodontics.

dental hygiene periodontal disease diabetesAccording to The American Dental Association, “periodontics is that specialty of dentistry which encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues.” (1) 

You can find a wealth of current information on this topic from the consensus report of the Joint European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) Workshop on Periodontitis and Systemic Diseases. Key points from this paper are bulleted below. 
•    Diabetes Prevention
There is an association between severe periodontal disease and an increased risk of developing diabetes.
•    Periodontal disease and Hemoglobin A1C levels
Severe periodontal disease increases Hemoglobin A1c levels for people with and without diabetes. Getting treatment for periodontal problems results in a mean reduction of hemoglobin A1c of 0.36 percent at three months. The report highlights that this reduction is comparable to adding a second medication for diabetes therapy. 

Information about periodontal disease that people with diabetes need to know:
1.    They are at increased risk of periodontal disease and should be educated on oral health. It is important to properly care for your teeth and gums. Ask for guidance from your dentist.

2.    When a person has both diabetes and periodontal disease, blood glucose control may be compromised and they may be at a higher risk for complications such as cardiovascular disease. 

3.    People with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes need to have a comprehensive periodontal examination as part of a thorough oral health examination.  Diagnosed periodontitis should be managed. When problems are not seen, they should be monitored on an ongoing basis for any changes.

4.    Children with diabetes should have an oral screening every year starting at the age of 6 years by a dental professional.

5.    When people with diabetes have conditions such a “dry mouth” or a mouth that burns, they should call their dental professional for help. Diabetes increases the risk for fungal infections in the mouth.

6.    Signs and symptoms of periodontitis include: tartar on your teeth, red gums that bleed, pus at the gum line, bad tastes in the mouth, loose teeth (not from trauma), gum abscesses and spreading of the teeth. If these occur, get periodontal help promptly. When teeth are lost, one should seek professional help immediately to prevent problems with chewing food and nutritional health.

Proper mouth care is essential, especially for those with diabetes. Seek help from your dentist on the proper ways to take care of your teeth and gums. You should consider your dentist part of your diabetes team. Make sure he/she knows you have diabetes and follow up with recommended care. Good oral hygiene can actually help your blood glucose stay on track both for those with diabetes and those who are trying to prevent it.