Oral health care is extremely important in diabetes. Although, plaque is the main bad guy of gum disease, poorly controlled blood glucose levels can also be a culprit. Diabetes may weaken your mouth’s germ-fighting powers. High blood sugar levels can help the gum disease get worse. At the same time, gum disease can make diabetes harder to control.
Often gum disease is painless. You may not even know you have it until you have some serious damage. Regular dentist visits are your best weapon.
While gum disease may not hurt, there are warning signs to watch for.
- Bleeding gums when you brush or floss. This bleeding is not normal. Even if your gums don’t hurt, get them checked.
- Red, swollen, or tender gums.
- Gums that have pulled away from teeth. Part of the tooth’s root may show, or your teeth may look longer.
- Pus between the teeth and gums (when you press on the gums).
- Bad breath.
- Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other.
- Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite.
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures or bridges.
The three main steps in fighting gum disease are brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly. Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. Ask your dentist or hygienist to show you the correct way to brush and floss. Here are some tips.
Brushing. A toothbrush can only clean one or two teeth at a time. Allow about 3 minutes of brushing to clean all your teeth well.
- Use a brush with soft bristles and rounded ends. Soft bristles are less likely to hurt your gums.
- Angle the brush against the gum line, where teeth and gums meet.
- Move the brush back and forth with short strokes. Use a gentle, scrubbing motion.
- Brush the outside surfaces of the teeth. Do the same for the backs of the teeth and chewing surfaces.
- Brush the rough surface of your tongue to remove germs and freshen your breath.
- Remember to brush your gums too.
- Get a new toothbrush when the bristles are worn or bent, about every 3-4 months.
Flossing. Few people really enjoy flossing. But if you don’t floss, you’re only doing half the job of cleaning your teeth and gums. Flossing cleans away plaque and bits of food from between your teeth and below the gum line. It gets places your brush can’t reach. Floss once a day.
- Break off 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the rest around the same finger of the other hand.
- Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index fingers. Leave about an inch between them.
- Use a gentle sawing motion to get the floss between your teeth. Never snap the floss into the gums.
- When you get the floss to the gum line, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Scrape up and down on the sides of each tooth to remove plaque.
- As floss gets worn and dirty, move to a clean section and continue. Don’t forget the backsides of your rear teeth.
- When you’re done brushing and flossing, rinse your mouth with water.