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Diabetes and Your Smile – Know the Risks and Have a Plan

Sable DDS

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and we are helping to spread the word on how uncontrolled diabetes can affect individuals’ teeth and gums. Below are edited notes from the American Dental Association and related research.

Diabetes and Your Smile

Based on article 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?? If diabetes is left untreated, it can take a toll on your mouth. In fact, one in five cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes.  

5 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Mouth

Gum Disease

Notice some bleeding when you brush or floss? That may be an early sign of gum disease. If it becomes more severe, the bone that supports your teeth can break down, leading to tooth loss. Early gum disease can be reversed with proper brushing, flossing and diet. Research has shown gum disease can worsen if your blood sugar is not under control, so do your best to keep it in check.

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 gum 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.

Dry Mouth

Studies have found people with diabetes have less saliva, so you might find yourself feeling parched or extra thirsty. (Medications and higher blood sugar levels are also causes.) Fight dry mouth by drinking water. You can also chew sugarless gum and eat healthy, crunchy foods to get saliva flowing. This is especially important because extra sugar in your saliva, combined with less saliva to wash away leftover food, can lead to cavities

Change in Taste

Your favorite flavors might not taste as rich as your remember if you have diabetes. It can be disappointing, but take the opportunity to experiment with different tastes, textures and spices to your favorite foods. Just take care not to add too much sugar to your food in an effort to add flavor. Not only can this affect the quality of your diet, it can also lead to more cavities. If you have a persistent bad taste in your mouth, see your dentist or doctor.

Infections

Diabetes affects your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection. One common among people with diabetes is a yeast infection called oral thrush (candidiasis). The yeast thrive on the higher amount of sugar found in your saliva, and it looks like a white layer coating your tongue and the insides of your cheeks. Thrush is more common in people who wear dentures and can often leave a bad taste in your mouth. See your dentist if you think you have thrush or any other mouth infection.

Slow Healing

Have you ever noticed a cold sore or a cut in your mouth that doesn’t quite seem to go away? This can be another way that diabetes may affect your mouth. Poor control of blood sugar can keep injuries from healing quickly and properly. If you have something in your mouth that you feel isn’t healing as it should, see your dentist.

How We Can Help You Fight Diabetes

Diabetes doing glucose level test

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.

Sources:

http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diabetes

http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/diabetes-slideshow

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Sensitive Teeth? Dang, They Are A PAIN!

Sable DDS Tooth Sensitivity

Do you cringe at the thought of taking a bite of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee because it makes your teeth hurt? Does brushing or flossing your teeth cause pain? If so, you may have sensitive teeth. You may experience discomfort or pain when you eat or drink hot, cold, sweet, sour, or very acidic foods and beverages. You may also experience discomfort when breathing in cold air. Tooth sensitivity may come and go, or it may be continuous.

Tooth or dentin hypersensitivity is a harmless, but sometimes painful, condition that occurs in up to 60% of people.   While temporary tooth sensitivity may happen, if sensitivity lasts more than a week, you should call Sandy for an appointment, just so we can help determine the cause and ensure that it is nothing serious. There is no reason to suffer with tooth sensitivity when we can suggest treatments that can alleviate your discomfort.

So, What Exactly is Tooth Sensitivity?

Okay, just remember that YOU asked? A layer of enamel protects the part of your tooth above the gum line, known as the crown. (Yep, here we go with parts of the tooth – did you pay attention to our previous blog? It was riveting. So here’s the link just in case you can’t wait another second – https://wp.me/p84DRh-y) Underneath that gum line, there is a different protective layer called the cementum that protects the roots. And underneath both the enamel and the cementum, there is a less dense layer called dentin. When dentin loses its protective coating of enamel or cementum, hot, cold, acidic, or sticky foods can reach the nerves inside the tooth and cause pain.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

There are many possible causes of tooth sensitivity, and some are more serious than others. It is important to check in with us if you are experiencing any sensitivity so that we can help you find the source of the problem.  Causes include:

  • Tooth decay and cavities
  • Fractured teeth
  • Broken or worn fillings
  • Abscessed tooth – may have a nerve going “bad”
  • Brushing with abrasive toothpaste
  • Gum recession that exposes the tooth root surface, whether due to gum disease or naturally occurring with age
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth which opens the pores in the teeth
  • Tooth erosion from highly acidic beverages or foods, or due to bulimia or gastroesophageal reflux disease

So, How Do We Treat Tooth Sensitivity?

Depending on cause and severity of the sensitivity, in-home or in-office, we can recommend treatments that will alleviate your discomfort.  At-home treatments include:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste: A specially-formulated toothpaste that can help block the transmission of pain sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, resulting in reduced sensitivity.
  • Desensitizing rinses: Usually developed with high levels of fluoride, desensitizing rinses can also help relieve pain.

In-office treatments include:

  • Fluoride gel or varnish: Your dentist can apply fluoride directly to your sensitive tooth to strengthen the enamel and decrease its sensitivity.
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding: These dental procedures can correct a flaw or decay in your tooth that may be causing pain.
  • Surgical gum graft: If you’ve lost gum tissue from the root, you can have  gum tissue taken from another area and attach it to the affected area, thus protecting the exposed roots and reducing pain.
  • Get your bite adjusted:  Some teeth may chew with more pressure or force causing trauma leading to teeth being more sensitive. We have patients who have had HUGE benefits from this treatment, for which Dr. Sable has trained for many years!

Okay, Your Teeth Don’t Hurt YET?  What Do You Do?

The first step to avoiding tooth sensitivity is to practice good oral hygiene. Gum recession, the leading cause of tooth sensitivity, can be stalled through proper brushing and flossing habits. However, while keeping your teeth clean is critical, harsh brushing or over-brushing can lead to increased sensitivity.  To avoid tooth sensitivity, practice the following habits:

  • Don’t brush your teeth with abrasive toothpastes.  Tartar control and “whitening” toothpastes can be very abrasive, opening up the pores in the teeth. If you are concerned with whitening, speak to Dr. Sable about better options than these toothpastes.  Don’t do more damage than good!
  • Avoid foods and drinks high in acid or sugar. The foods and drinks your dentist warned you about as a child still apply. Foods or drinks such as soda, sticky candy (OH NO…JUST IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN!), or anything high in sugar content can weaken your enamel. Reach for snacks like fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products to keep your teeth and enamel healthy. Not only are these snacks healthier in general, but they also keep your enamel strong by helping you produce saliva – a natural defense against acid and bacteria.
  • Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth. Grinding your teeth can wear away your tooth enamel. If you clench or grind your teeth (or think you do!) while you sleep, let us know.  It is worth having this conversation to prevent longer term damage! We may recommend a custom-fit mouth guard.  In severe cases, muscle relaxants may be prescribed.
  • Stop bleaching your teeth. This popular cosmetic procedure might make your teeth brighter and whiter, but it can be the source of temporary tooth sensitivity. Consider taking a break from bleaching your teeth to see if it improves your sensitivity.

Don’t Live with Pain! 

If you have tooth sensitivity, give us a call today. Pain does not need to become part of your life. There are ways to mitigate your sensitivity and get you back to enjoying the foods and drinks you love.

We want you to breath easy and enjoy life with a natural, beautiful smile!