ONE OF THE MOST common complications of diabetes is gum disease, and that isn’t the only way diabetes is hard on teeth and gums. Diabetes and oral health have a close relationship. If the diabetes isn’t carefully controlled, it will be much harder to maintain good oral health, and vice versa.
What Does Blood Sugar Have to Do with Oral Health?
You’ve probably already heard that sugar is bad for oral health. The harmful bacteria in our mouths love to eat leftover sugar stuck to our teeth after we enjoy a tasty treat. Unfortunately, high blood sugar is just as delicious to harmful oral bacteria. High blood sugar also weakens the immune system, making that same bacteria harder to fight. This leaves diabetic patients more vulnerable to tooth decay and oral inflammation.
Diabetes and Gum Disease
An estimated 22 percent of diabetics (both type 1 and type 2) have gum disease. It might only be in the early stages of inflammation (gingivitis) or it might be much more advanced (periodontitis), threatening the health of the teeth, gums and even the supporting bone. If the bacteria causing the gum disease makes its way into the bloodstream, it can threaten overall health too.
Symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, bad breath, gum recession, and looser teeth. Other problems associated with diabetes can also increase the risk of gum disease, such as dry mouth, impaired ability to heal, burning mouth syndrome, more frequent and severe infections, enlargement of salivary glands, and fungal infections.
How to Fight Back Against Diabetes
Fortunately, good oral health is still achievable even for patients struggling with diabetes, and maintaining good oral health will make it easier to keep good control over diabetes. Brush twice a day for two full minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, be careful with sugar intake, and avoid smoking. If you’re doing all of this and scheduling your recommended number of yearly dental appointments, you’ll be on the right track!
How Diabetes Can Impact Orthodontic Treatment
We want everyone to have healthy, properly aligned smiles, but gum disease can make it difficult or impossible to begin or continue orthodontic treatment. That’s why it’s even more crucial for diabetics who are current orthodontic patients or who are considering orthodontic treatment to maintain careful control of their diabetes and their oral health.
Take Advantage of Good Resources
We want to emphasize the importance of those regular dental visits. The dentist can recognize warning signs before you can and recommend adjustments to the daily oral hygiene routine before any problems can get worse. The dentist and the doctor can also work as a team to help keep you, your teeth, and your gums healthy — just make sure to keep them both up to date!
BLEEDING GUMS ARE the most common symptom of gum disease, but that’s not the only thing that can cause this problem. Let’s take a closer look at bleeding gums, the various causes, and what we can do about it.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Over time, plaque (a sticky, bacteria-filled film that coats our teeth) builds up along our gumlines if we aren’t careful enough in our brushing and flossing routines. Eventually, plaque hardens into tartar, which irritates the gums, making them more likely to bleed and leading to gingivitis, or the early stage of gum disease.
More advanced gum disease is periodontitis, where the infection impacts the jaw and supportive tissues connecting the teeth to the gums as well as the gums themselves. Tooth loss is a major concern at this stage, so don’t let it get this far!
Vitamin C and K Deficiencies
If your gums are bleeding but you don’t have gum disease, ask your doctor to check your vitamin C and K levels, and make sure you’re including good sources of these vitamins in your diet, such as: citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers for vitamin C, and watercress, kale, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, soybeans, and olive oil for vitamin K.
Overbrushing Damages Gum Tissue
It’s also possible (though uncommon) to damage gum tissue to the point of bleeding (and worse) simply by brushing too hard. Remember when you’re brushing that you aren’t cleaning out tile grout; you’re cleaning soft, living tissue, and gentle brushing is enough. It’s best to use a brush with soft bristles. One way you know you’re probably brushing too hard is if the bristles quickly become bent outward.
A New Flossing Routine
Sometimes flossing for the first time in a while can cause a little bleeding, but this is no reason to stop flossing. The bleeding should clear up after a few days if there isn’t another cause, but make sure that you’re gentle on your gums when you floss. You want to get beneath the gumline, but avoid pulling straight towards the gums when getting between your teeth. Instead, work your way down carefully with a back-and-forth motion.
Protecting Your Gum Health
The first step to having healthy gums is good dental hygiene. This includes twice-daily brushing for a full two minutes with that soft-bristled toothbrush, daily flossing, and twice-yearly visits to the dentist. A good way to soothe tender gums is by swishing with warm salt water (but don’t swallow it). You might also want to consider switching to an electric toothbrush. They’re better at cleaning and you’re less likely to brush too hard with them.
Let the Dentist Take a Look
If you’ve noticed your gums bleeding when you brush or if they’ve felt sore or swollen lately, the first thing to do is to schedule a dental appointment. The dentist can determine what the source of the problem is and recommend the right next steps to take to get back to great gum health!
EVEN THOUGH WE know, logically, that going to the dentist is a safe, normal, and important part of staying healthy, many of us don’t find it particularly fun to lie flat on our backs while someone pokes around our teeth and gums. For some people, the very thought of visiting the dentist fills them with anxiety, and it could even be a full-blown phobia. That’s why we’d like to put our focus on helping our patients overcome their dental anxieties and fears.
Dental Anxiety Statistics: You Are Not Alone
Fear of going to the dentist is fairly common, with an estimatednine to 15 percent of Americans completely avoiding visiting the dentist because of anxiety and fear. That means up to 40 million Americans are taking a serious gamble with their dental health. Putting off a basic twice-a-year cleaning out of fear leaves patients much more susceptible to tooth decay and painful infection. It’s always better (for your wallet as well as your health) to view dental care as preventative, not just reactive.
Why Does Dental Anxiety Happen?
A lot of people who avoid the dentist due to dental anxiety or fear do so because of a previous negative experience they had that soured them on the concept of dentistry altogether. The feeling of not being in control is another reason people might be nervous. We understand this, and we’re dedicated to helping our patients feel comfortable so that they can move forward with the right professional oral health care to keep their teeth strong and healthy for life.
History and Pop Culture Skew Versus Modern Dentistry
If you’re worried about going to the dentist, that might be because history and pop culture have given you the wrong idea. Before World War II made anesthetics the norm, dental procedures were uncomfortable, to say the least. The field has come a long way since then, even though movies and TV haven’t done much to update cultural expectations. Modern dental offices maintain a high standard of comfort and care for patients.
Tips for Overcoming Dental Anxiety
There are a few things you can do to reduce your dental anxiety.
Come visit our practice before your appointment, especially if this is your first time coming in. Familiarize yourself with our space and members of our staff so that it doesn’t seem so foreign on appointment day. You might even want to bring someone you trust along with you.
Learn as much as you can about what happens in a typical dental appointment. If you take away the mystery, it will help you regain a sense of control.
Talk to us about your anxiety. When we know this is something you struggle with, there’s more we can do to help you.
Bring a distraction like headphones and a playlist of relaxing music to your appointment.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Dental Professionals
Your care and comfort are our top priorities. If you or someone in your family struggles with dental anxiety and it’s interfering with getting needed dental care, we’d love to schedule a time for you to come to our practice so that you can get used to the facility and get to know our team. We can answer any questions you may have.
THE EXPRESSION “getting long in the tooth” refers to gum recession, but this oral health problem isn’t necessarily connected to age. Gum recession is when the edge of the gingival tissue moves away from the crown of the tooth, exposing the root. The reason we tend to think of it as an age-related problem is that it tends to be so gradual that it takes many years to become noticeable, but it can begin at any age — even in childhood! — for a variety of reasons.
Gum Recession Caused by Genetics
Unfortunately, gum recession isn’t always avoidable, because it can be caused by genetics. Some people simply have more fragile gum tissue or they don’t have enough jaw bone surrounding the roots of their teeth to support the gums all the way up to the crowns. However, other contributing factors are easier to control, so even people who are predisposed to gum recession can still minimize it.
Bruxism: Bad for Teeth, Bad for Gums
Bruxism (chronic teeth-grinding) can cause all kinds of problems for oral health, and one of them is an increased risk of gum recession. Grinding puts a lot of pressure on the gums, and they can’t always hold up under it and begin to recede. The habit of grinding is often difficult to break, particularly for those who grind in their sleep. If you struggle with bruxism, come talk to us. You don’t have to fight this alone.
Overbrushing: Too Much of a Good Thing
Dentists spend so much time encouraging patients to brush their teeth more that you might be surprised to learn that it’s possible to brush your teeth too much. It’s certainly possible to brush them too hard. We call this over brushing, and it can lead to enamel erosion and gum recession.
This problem is an easy one to avoid. Always keep in mind that brushing teeth is not the same as cleaning tile grout. Soft bristles are better for our gums and tooth enamel than hard bristles, and two minutes twice a day is usually enough. If you’re brushing so hard that your toothbrush bristles rapidly bend and fray within a couple months, it’s time to ease up. The same applies to flossing. Daily flossing is essential, but be gentle on your gums.
Gum Disease Leaves Gum Tissue Vulnerable
Gum disease, particularly in the advanced stages, destroys the supporting gum tissue and bone around teeth. It’s the main cause of gum recession. The best way to fight it is with good oral hygiene habits and regular dental appointments. Professional cleanings are absolutely crucial for maintaining good gum health, because once plaque hardens into tartar, it can only be removed by the dentist. The longer it remains, the more irritation it can cause the gums.
Kids Can Have Gum Recession?
It’s true; even kids aren’t completely safe from gum recession. The causes are the same for adults: improper brushing and flossing (specifically, overbrushing), bad oral hygiene, and teeth grinding. It can also come on as the result of an injury to the mouth. As with gum recession in adults, the best treatment is prevention through good oral health habits.
Let’s Keep Those Gums Healthy!
If you’re worried that your gums may be beginning to recede or you want to learn more about how you can prevent gum recession, schedule an appointment with us! We can help you take care of your gum health and discuss treatment options if needed.