If I have diabetes, how do I prevent oral health problems?

Since people with diabetes are more prone to conditions that might harm their oral health, it’s vital to follow good oral hygiene practices, pay special attention to any changes in your oral health, and to call your dentist immediately if such changes occur. Suggestions to prevent or reduce oral health problems include:

  • Keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. At each dental visit, tell your dentist the status of your diabetes. For instance, know your glycosylated hemoglobin (HgA1C) level. (Good control is indicated by a level under 7%). If you’ve had an episode of low blood sugar (also called an insulin reaction) in the past, you are at increased risk to have another one. Tell your dentist when your last episode was, how frequently such episodes occur, and when you took your last dose of insulin (if you take insulin).
  • See your doctor before scheduling treatment for periodontal disease. Ask your doctor to talk to your dentist or periodontist about your overall health condition If oral surgery is planned, your doctor or dentist will tell you if you need to take any pre-surgical antibiotics, if you need to change your meal schedule or the timing and dosage of your insulin (if you take insulin).
  • Make sure to give your dentist your doctor’s name and phone number. This information will then be easily available to your dentist should any questions or concerns arise.
  • Bring your dentist a list of all the names and dosages of all medicines you are taking. Your dentist will need to know this information to prescribe medicines least likely to interfere with the medicines you are already taking. If a major infection is being treated, your insulin dose (for those taking insulin) might need to be adjusted.
  • Postpone non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control. However, acute infections (infections that develop quickly), such as abscesses, should be treated right away.
  • Keep in mind that healing might take longer in people with diabetes. Follow your dentist’s post-treatment instructions closely.
  • Call your orthodontist immediately if a wire or bracket (such as those in braces) cuts your tongue or mouth.

Other oral hygiene tips for people with diabetes:

  • Have your teeth and gums cleaned and checked by your dentist at least twice a year. Talk to your dentist to determine how often you will need checkups.
  • Prevent plaque buildup on teeth by using dental floss at least once a day.
  • Brush your teeth after every meal. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • If you wear dentures, remove them and clean them daily.
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.

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