Articles for March 2018

Diabetes and Your Smile

By Laura Martin, Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine

Did you know that 29.1 million people living in the United States have diabetes? That’s 9.3% of the population. Approximately 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed each year—and 8.1 million people living with diabetes don’t even know they have it.

Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar. All food you eat is turned to sugar and used for energy. In Type I diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to the cells that need it for energy. In Type II diabetes, the body stops responding to insulin. Both cases result in high blood sugar levels, which can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body.

So what does this have to do with that smile of yours — and how can you protect it? First, it’s important to understand the signs of diabetes and the roles they play in your mouth.

The Symptoms of Untreated Diabetes

The warning signs of diabetes affect every part of your body. After a blood test, you may be told by a doctor that you have high blood sugar. You may feel excessively thirsty or have to urinate a lot. Weight loss and fatigue are other common symptoms. Diabetes can also cause you to lose consciousness if your blood sugar falls too low.

If diabetes is left untreated, it can take a toll on your mouth as well. Here’s how:

  • You may have less saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry. (Dry mouth is also caused by certain medications.)
  • Because saliva protects your teeth, you’re also at a higher risk of cavities.
  • Gums may become inflamed and bleed often (gingivitis).
  • You may have problems tasting food.
  • You may experience delayed wound healing.
  • You may be susceptible to infections inside of your mouth.
  • For children with diabetes, teeth may erupt at an age earlier than is typical.

Why People with Diabetes Are More Prone to Gum Disease

All people have more tiny bacteria living in their mouth now than there are people on this planet. If they make their home in your gums, you can end up with periodontal disease. This chronic, inflammatory disease can destroy your gums, all the tissues holding your teeth and even your bones.

Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22% of those diagnosed. Especially with increasing age, poor blood sugar control increases the risk for gum problems.  In fact, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for gum problems because of poor blood sugar control. As with all infections, serious gum disease may cause blood sugar to rise. This makes diabetes harder to control because you are more susceptible to infections and are less able to fight the bacteria invading the gums.

How Your Dentist Can Help You Fight Diabetes

Regular dental visits are important. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c. (This is a lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over the previous three months. It indicates how well you are controlling your diabetes.)

Your Diabetes Dental Health Action Plan

Teamwork involving self-care and professional care from your dentist will be beneficial in keeping your healthy smile as well as potentially slowing progression of diabetes. Here are five oral health-related things you can do to for optimal wellness:

  • Control your blood sugar levels. Use your diabetes-related medications as directed, changing to a healthier diet and even exercising more can help. Good blood sugar control will also help your body fight any bacterial or fungal infections in your mouth and help relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • If you wear any type of denture, clean it each day.
  • Make sure to brush twice a day with a soft brush and clean between your teeth daily.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups.

 

If you are in the Lehigh Acres area, you may click or tap here to ask a question or request an appointment.

 

Nail Biting & Other Habits and What to Do About Them

Nail Biting

The habit: This nervous habit can chip teeth and impact your jaw. “Placing your jaw for long periods of time in a protruding position can place pressure on it, which is associated with jaw dysfunction,” says Dr. Ruchi Sahota.

The solution: Bitter-tasting nail polishes, stress reduction and setting small, realistic goals can help. If certain situations are triggers, hold something to keep your fingers busy.

If you are in the Lehigh Acres area, contact us or request an appointment HERE.

Brushing Too Hard

The habit: Brushing for two minutes twice a day is one of the best habits you can get into. Just make sure you’re not trying too hard. “Brushing with a hard toothbrush, or brushing too hard, can damage teeth and irritate gums,” says Dr. Matthew Messina.

The solution: Use a soft toothbrush with the ADA Seal of Acceptance at the proper pressure. “Don’t think ‘scrub.’  Think ‘massage,’” he says. “Save the hard toothbrush for cleaning the grout in the bathroom tile.”

Grinding and Clenching

The habit: “This can cause chipping or cracking of the teeth, as well as muscle tenderness or joint pain,” Dr. Messina says. “You might also feel like you can’t open your mouth wide or chew with pain.”

The solution: “Relaxation exercises and staying aware makes a difference,” he says. A nighttime mouthguard can also help. “You’ll have less tooth damage, less pain and muscle soreness and better sleep.”

Chewing Ice Cubes

The habit: “Tooth enamel is a crystal. Ice is a crystal. When you push two crystals against each other, one will break,” Dr. Messina says. “Most of the time it’s the ice, but sometimes the tooth or a filling will break.”

The solution: Drink chilled beverages without ice, or use a straw so you’re not tempted. “The risk of chewing ice is greater than any pleasure that comes from chewing it,” he says. “Besides, ice is really cold!”

Constant Snacking

The habit: Grazing all day, especially on sugary foods and drinks, puts you at a higher risk for cavities. When you eat, cavity-causing bacteria feast leftover food, producing an acid that attacks the outer shell of your teeth.

The solution: Eat balanced meals to feel fuller, longer. If you need a snack, make sure it’s low in fat and sugar. If you indulge in the occasional sugary treat, follow it with a big glass of water to wash away leftover food.

Using Your Teeth As Tools

The habit: Your teeth were made for eating, not to stand in as a pair of scissors or hold things when your hands are full. When you do this, you put yourself at a higher risk of cracking your teeth, injuring your jaw or accidentally swallowing something you shouldn’t.

The solution: Stop and find something or someone to give you a hand. Your mouth will thank you.

If you are in the Lehigh Acres area, contact us or request an appointment HERE.

Nutrition: What You Eat Affects Your Teeth

Family eating a healthy meal

Your mouth, teeth, and gums are more than just tools for eating. They’re essential for chewing and swallowing—the first steps in the digestion process. Your mouth is your body’s initial point of contact with the nutrients you consume. So what you put in your mouth impacts not only your general health but also that of your teeth and gums. In fact, if your nutrition is poor, the first signs often show up in your mouth. Here are a few helpful things to know about how what you eat can impact your dental health.

About Your Diet and Dental Health

  • Recommended Nutritional Guidelines
  • Diet and Tooth Decay
  • How Snacking Affects Your Dental Health
  • Foods That Harm Your Dental Health
  • Foods That Benefit Dental Health
  • Sugar and Your Dental Health
  • How Sugar Substitutes Affect Your Teeth
  • 4 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cavities