Oral health tips to keep blood sugar levels in control

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Written by Dr Amrita Jain

August 30, 2021

Taking care of your oral hygiene is one way to keep your blood sugar levels in control as diabetes and oral health are linked. Diabetics are more prone to plaque and tartar accumulation in and around the teeth as well as gums accelerating the process of tooth cavities and gum infections. Diabetics need to understand taking care of their oral hygiene will help them reduce the chances of future dental as well as diabetic complications.

One needs to understand, there’s much more to dental hygiene and not just brushing twice daily. So what’s the ideal dental hygiene regime for a diabetic?

Have an effective brushing plan

Be diligent about gentle brushing after each meal and flossing once daily. Diabetics cannot depend on their bodies for healing on their own. The slow healing rate accelerates the process of gum infections faster. Hence, brushing after meals is very important for diabetics to flush out the plaque and food material as soon as possible.

Use an extra-soft bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth as gums might be very delicate and there could be chances of bleeding gums. You can also use interdental brushes to gently remove and clean the surfaces in between the teeth.

Toothpaste and rinse for the diabetics

Avoid using toothpaste that contains sweetening agents like sodium saccharin, sorbitol, glycerol, and xylitol. Use xylitol-free (sugar-free) toothpaste indicated for diabetics.

Use non- Alcoholic mouthwashes to rinse since they won’t dry your mouth. Remember to check the ingredient list at the back of the bottle while buying the product. Generally, companies mention the word ‘alcohol’ in the ingredients, so make sure you choose the mouthwash that mentions ‘alcohol-free’ mouthwash before buying one.

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Combating dry mouth

  • Dry mouth can be taken care of by keeping your mouth hydrated as well as increasing the saliva flow in your mouth.
  • Chewing on sugar-free chewing gums helps stimulate saliva secretion. You can even opt the minty flavors in case you do not experience any burning sensations in the mouth. Sucking on hard sugarless candies will also do the job. Try citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies.
  • Stay hydrated, drink plenty of fluids. Sip water or a sugarless drink during meals to aid the chewing and swallowing process.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco as these just dehydrate your mouth.
  • Refrain from excess spicy and salty foods.
  • For denture wearers, daily cleaning and massaging of gums helps increasing blood circulation and improves gum healing. Keep the denture soaked in water overnight for effective cleansing.

Quit Smoking

Smoking increases your resistance to insulin, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. Also, the constituents of tobacco decrease the blood circulation to your jaws and poor glucose management.

Cessation counseling along with the medication therapy work in tandem. So do not hesitate to consult a tobacco cessation counselor for that purpose. They will help you recognize the root cause of your addiction and lifestyle changes to make the de-addiction journey as smooth as possible. Replacement therapy in the form of patches and gums might be required to save you from further complications and nicotine cravings.

Enhancing taste perception

Partial or complete loss of taste has to be taken care of by modifying your food preparation. Work closely with a Nutritionist in formulating your diet, which will enhance flavors and improve the taste. Diabetics are also prone to a white coating on the tongue. So keep your tongue clean by practicing tongue cleaning after your meals and after brushing your teeth.

Fighting bad breath

Increased plaque and bacteria build-up are the reasons why diabetics are more to bad breath. Along with the above-mentioned oral hygiene steps, regular 6 monthly teeth cleaning and polishing by a dentist will solve most of the dental problems including bad breath. People having any crowns (caps), bridges or any appliances like braces, retainers, or dentures need to take extra care in maintaining hygiene. Teeth cleaning and polishing every 6 months will do it all.

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Speaking to your dentist

It is essential to note that an open communication channel should be present between you and these professionals so that your medications and insulin dosages can be managed in line with your oral health needs.

Regular follow-ups and cleaning appointments with your dentist will not only  help detect the onset of dental problems but also keep your blood sugar levels under control especially the Hba1c (laboratory diagnostic test that measures average glucose levels in the blood for 3months) levels

This is because the bacteria residing in your gums decreases with regular cleaning, your immune cells do not have to fight back aggressively which helps in keeping your sugar levels in place.

Non-Emergency dental procedures need to be postponed until the glucose levels are controlled.

Any surgical procedure has to be covered with pre-surgical antibiotics as well as your meal and insulin dosage might have to be altered. Your dentist will make sure your appointments are scheduled early morning when insulin levels are stable.

Reach out to your dentist if you are a diabetic and you see these symptoms in your mouth

  •  Red, swollen and bleeding gums
  • A persistent discharge (pus) from the gums
  • Foul taste or Bad breath
  • Loose teeth or feeling of tooth pressing down 
  • New spaces opening up between teeth
  • White coating on the tongue

Highlights

  • Diabetics must take care of their oral health as well to keep their overall health in check.
  • Being more prone to plaque and tartar build-up diabetics must get a 6 monthly teeth cleaning and polishing done by a professional dentist.
  • Diabetics should pay more attention to their gum health than teeth. Healthy gums more healthier the teeth.
  • Contact your dentist if you see any of the above mentioned oral symptoms.

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Dr. Amrita Jain is a practicing dental surgeon since 4 years. She completed her B.D.S in 2016 and was has been a rank holder throughout her course. She suggests “Holistic dentistry is the best dentistry”. Her treatment line follows a conservative pattern which means saving a tooth is of utmost priority and preventing your teeth from getting decayed rather than curing it with a root canal treatment. She inculcates the same while consulting her patients. Apart from her interest in clinical practice, she has developed interest in research and writing over a period of time. She states “It is my clinical experience that motivates me to write and spread dental awareness”. Her articles are well researched with a combination of technical knowledge and clinical experience.
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