Diabetes can complicate a lot of ordinary parts of life, including a visit to the dentist. A build-up of bacteria in the gums is already known to be a risk factor for heart disease. But plaque can also present special challenges for the diabetic.
In this week's Dealing with Diabetes segment, a local dentist explains why diabetics need to pay close attention to what's going on inside their mouth.
A dentist is sometimes the first one to suspect that a patient has developed diabetes. Gum disease that isn't healing as it should. Or gums that are bleeding for no apparent reason may be indicators.
Las Vegas dentist, Laurie Bloch has a personal connection to diabetes. Her grandfather lost a leg to the disease.
Dr. Bloch said, "What we're seeing in patients that have diabetes is that their gum tissue doesn't heal like someone who doesn't have it. So they're more susceptible to the infection. Gum disease is an infection that's caused by a bacteria. But the bacteria are able to proliferate more in a diabetic patient."
Gum disease is reversible in its early stages. But if the infection spreads beyond the gum tissue and into the bone, teeth will either fall out or they'll have to be pulled.
Dr. Bloch said, "If you have gum disease and a combination of that and diabetes or some other auto-immune disease, you're going to loose your teeth faster."
Problems in the mouth such as cavities can be apparent, especially when there's pain. But that's not the case with gum disease.
Dr. Bloch said, "A lot of times, people will come in and they have no idea that they're sick. Gum disease is painless. And usually once it starts to hurt, its too late. The teeth become loose and you have to take them out."
Regular cleanings and preventative care are important for everyone in maintaining healthy gums. But oral health becomes a necessity for diabetics.
Dr. Bloch said, "We would definitely increase the amount of care they're getting to maintain their teeth. And that's something they'll have to do for their whole life."
Dr. Bloch suggests that diabetics replace their tooth brush every couple of months and run it through the dishwasher every once in a while to kill the germs.
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