Adults and children who suffer from diabetes and sugar regulation issues tend to have a decreased ability to fend off infections and inflammation in the body.
With improper regulation of blood sugar levels, the immune system's natural defense cells have difficulty working properly and fending the body off from invaders, in addition to an inability of the body to heal and recover from disease.
Periodontal disease is a chronic disease of the supporting structures of the teeth (gums, ligaments, bone) which has no known cure and tends to debilitate exponentially over time when left unchecked. Dental health care in diabetics is extremely important for overall health of the body.
One mistake that people often make is to believe that oral health has limited effects in the body, not extending past the mouth to the rest of the body's organs and systems.
This is a big problem because often the #1 indicator of disease in the body is disease in the mouth. You can think of the mouth as a window into the health of the whole body.
Generally speaking, the health of someone's mouth is in direct correlation with their systemic health. The body, after all, is a closed system, all interconnected and interlinked.
Inflammation in one area of the body, such as the mouth, actually affects the entire body. Although inflammation may seem to be compartmentalized to the specific affected region, in fact this is a myth. During inflammation, cytokines and inflammatory mediators (proteins that send messages to the body's immune cells) are released to the bloodstream, where they travel throughout the body. An infection in the mouth, such as periodontal disease, sends the entire body into an inflammation cascade not limited to the original site of inflammation (the mouth), but in fact spread throughout the body. It's hard to stress how important good dental health care in diabetics is.
The cycle of inflammation in diabetics is difficult to stop once it has gotten started. In a way you can think of periodontal disease and diabetes as a feedback loop, where the negative effects of periodontal disease increase the negative effects of diabetes, which in turn increase the negative effects of periodontal disease, and so on. Stopping or minimizing this cycle is particularly important for diabetics, as periodontal disease greatly affects a diabetic's ability to maintain their blood glucose levels in a healthy range.
Now that you know inflammation, diabetes, and periodontal disease are intrinsically connected and that they all affect the health of the entire body, here is what you can do to decrease the risk of developing periodontal disease and help maintain blood glucose levels in diabetics.
1. Maintain exceptional oral health to minimize the cycle of diabetes > inflammation > periodontal disease. Breaking this feedback loop is critical for the health of your entire body
2. Brush with a soft-bristled electronic toothbrush twice daily (Sonicare is best, Oral B is the runner-up), tilted at a 45-degree angle into the gum line. The best non-electric toothbrush I've come across is the Colgate 360 Sensitive Pro Relief with extra soft bristles, also tilted into the gum line. Learn more about how to brush your teeth effectively to ensure that all your hard work pays off
3. Use a Waterpik daily for exceptional care of the gums, teeth, and supporting structures (ligaments, tissues, bone.) To learn more about the benefits of Waterpiks, click here. I have seen absolutely amazing results in my diabetic and periodontal patients when they began using a Waterpik daily. They're ergonomic, easy to use, and remove 99.9% of plaque bacteria from every surface that they touch in the mouth
4. Use 6-10g xylitol products daily (toothpaste, mouth rinse, candy, gum, or mints.) Xylitol is a non-fermentable sugar safe for diabetics and extremely powerful at decreasing the bacterial load in the mouth. Xylitol changes the DNA of oral bacteria so that they can no longer adhere to the teeth. In addition, xylitol is the best natural cavity preventative
5. If you don't use a xylitol mouthwash, at least use an essential oil mouth rinse daily (Listerine Zero) or prescribed mouth rinse (Peridex / chlorhexidine gluconate) to decrease the bacterial load in the mouth. Keeping bacterial levels low is key for overall health, especially critical in diabetics
6. If chronic dry mouth occurs due to medications, use Biotene products daily (gel, rinse, or spray) or other dry mouth products. Learn more about chronic dry mouth and the best products to combat it. Dry mouth can cause serious problems in the long-term and should be remedied sooner rather than later to prevent inflammation and tooth decay
7. Maintain regular dental and periodontal maintenance visits (depending on severity, every 1-6 months) and listen to your dental hygienist's advice proactively. Hygienists are there to provide you with the road map to optimal oral health, in whatever way works best for your lifestyle. Don't hesitate to tell them your issues, concerns, and to ask questions: they are there to guide you and support your transition into better health
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