With diabetics being high-risk for the negative affects of Covid-19, this seems especially important this year. Many diabetics are asking if it is safe to visit the dentist, and dental care is particularly important to their overall health.
Why does diabetes cause problems for teeth and gums?
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cause high blood sugar levels and less saliva or a dry mouth. Slower wound healing is another side effect that can affect oral hygiene and fighting infection in the mouth.
These factors can increase diabetics’ risk of tooth decay, early gum disease (gingivitis) and advanced gum disease (periodontitis), as well as oral thrush. We will focus on the affect of diabetes on tooth decay and gum disease, but it is worth remembering that good oral hygiene practices also help reduce the chances of a thrush infection.
Saliva protects your teeth, and a diabetics’ lower production of saliva can lead to increased infections in the mouth. Because people with diabetes tend to have weaker resistance to bacteria and slower wound healing, this tends to lead to more severe gum disease, requiring additional treatment by your dentist.
What can diabetics do to protect their teeth and gums?
According to an article in Diabetes SA, regular visits to your dentist and oral hygienist are even more important to people with diabetes, so that any warning signs of gum disease or cavities can be caught and treated as quickly as possible.
Be sure to let your dentist know that you or your child have diabetes so that they can factor this into their diagnostics and treatment.
Excellent oral hygiene is extremely important, with twice daily brushing and flossing at least once a day. If you need some tips on oral hygiene for a child with diabetes, take a look at our smile school tips!
Making a commitment to manage your blood sugar levels through careful diet and diabetes medication, as discussed with your doctor, is also important to maintaining a healthy smile. You can get more information on how diet affects your oral health here.
The good news is that research even suggests that this is a two-way street, and practicing good oral hygiene with regular deep cleaning, as well as early treatment of gum disease can in fact lower blood sugar levels and help improve your management of your diabetes.
Is it safe for someone with diabetes to visit the dentist during the Covid-19 pandemic?
According to Sarie Liebenberg, writing as an oral hygienist for Diabetes SA, dentists and oral hygienists, as medical professionals, are already very well trained in how to prevent cross-infection among patients.
It is important to maintain your dental health regime and keep your dental appointments during this time, as part of managing your overall health and well-being. If you have special concerns related to diabetes and Covid-19, please call ahead to discuss this with your dentist.
Loock Dental Practice look forward to working with all our patients with diabetes towards a happy smile and improved overall health.