The Importance of Oral Health for Diabetics: Understanding and Implementing Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits
Thank you to guest author Eva Benoit. firstname.lastname@example.org
Diabetes is considered an epidemic. Around 29.1 million people living in the United States have diabetes. Approximately 1.4 million new cases are diagnosed each year, and 8.1 million people living with diabetes don’t know they have it. Both Type I and Type II affects your body’s ability to process sugar, resulting in high blood sugar levels, which can cause issues with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, and other parts of your body – including your mouth.
Here, we explain the importance of good oral health for those who have diabetes.
The Link Between Diabetes and Oral Health
Untreated diabetes and poor blood sugar control can negatively affect your mouth. You may have less saliva, which can lead to dry mouth. Saliva protects your teeth, so low levels put you at a greater risk of developing cavities, ulcers, and infections. Gums can become inflamed and bleed often, which are signs of gingivitis. Once your gums become infected, you can end up with periodontal disease – a chronic, inflammatory disease that can destroy your gums, the tissues holding your teeth, and your bones. Diabetes can also make you more susceptible to infections inside of your mouth (like thrush) and cause delayed wound healing.
Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting nearly 22 percent of diagnosed diabetics. All infections, including gum diseases, may cause blood sugar to rise, which makes diabetes harder to control because of increased susceptibility to infections and decreased ability to fight bacteria invading the gums, notes the American Dental Association (ADA). It’s a vicious cycle.
Regular Dental Visits and Ongoing Care
Regular dental visits are important for everyone, but especially for those with diabetes. Treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control, which decreases the progression of the disease. Also, practicing healthy oral hygiene habits and having professional cleanings by a dentist can lower your HbA1c, a lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over the previous three months. Results indicate how well you are controlling your diabetes.
Implementing healthy oral hygiene habits isn’t as difficult as you might think. You only need to brush twice a day for two minutes. You can set a timer, listen to a short song, or watch a two-minute YouTube video. Be sure you’re using the proper brushing technique and the proper toothbrush. Don’t cover your brush when it’s not in use as this can lead to bacteria growth. Instead, simply rinse your brush after each use and allow it to air dry. Never share your brush with anyone. Because bristles deteriorate with time and usage, change your brush every three to four months.
Brushing alone isn’t enough. You also need to floss properly and use a mouthwash and tongue scraper. Flossing gets between teeth where germs like to hide. The floss should be up to 18 inches in length so that you’re using a fresh area of floss every few teeth; otherwise, you’re reinserting the bacteria into your teeth as you floss. Mouthwash goes a step further than flossing, getting rid of debris that irritates the gum line and causes gingivitis. All oral hygiene products should have the ADA seal.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to practicing healthy oral hygiene habits, keep your blood sugar levels under control through a healthy diet, exercise, and diabetes-related medications. Also, avoid smoking. If you have dentures, be sure to clean them every day, too. Lastly, maintain regular checkups with your dentist as he or she suggests.
Also strategize how to reduce your stress level. The National Institutes of Health cites studies showing that stress contributes to poor oral health in combination with other chronic diseases. If “the boss” at your workplace is an outsized stress factor in your life, Zenbusiness recommends walking a mile in the shoes of your manager and consider the mountain of responsibilities on their shoulders. This may help you empathize, which in turn will reduce at least some of the anxiety.
If diabetes has already led to the loss of one or more of your teeth, consider the potential benefits of dental implants, which are artificial teeth that are screwed into the jawbone to replace natural teeth and their roots. Dental implants are a safe, high-quality, long-lasting, solution to replacing teeth. They allow you to eat and talk comfortably while providing you with a natural-looking smile.
Diabetes can affect your whole body, including your mouth. If you’re a diabetic, you want to pay special attention to your oral health. Understanding proper oral hygiene care and how diabetes affects your mouth can help protect your teeth from damage and help you control your diabetes more efficiently.
Thank you to our guest author, Hazel Bridges. email@example.com
Self-care fell to the back burner during the COVID-19 pandemic as families scrambled to navigate shutdowns, school closures, and other disruptions to daily life. At RDHAP Connect we recently discussed how some patients even delayed getting their teeth cleaned due to fears over the pandemic.
As life moves forward, however, it’s important to start caring for yourself once again. Here are four ways you can get yourself organized and back on track for a better 2022.
Get Out of Financial Denial
Are you stuck in financial denial? If the pandemic left you so stressed about money that you stopped paying attention to finances altogether, it’s time to stop ignoring money problems and address them head-on.
Debt consolidation is one strategy to relieve financial stress. But while consolidation keeps monthly payments manageable, it won’t fix anything without a change in spending habits. Put together a budget and payment plan to stop overspending and start making progress on debts.
What if you lost income during the pandemic and your monthly cash flow can’t keep up with expenses? Before downsizing to a more affordable home, find out if refinancing could help you. If current mortgage rates are lower than when you bought, or if your home’s value has risen significantly, refinancing your mortgage with a new loan could reduce your monthly payment and relieve financial pressure.
Stop the Social Media Binge
Financial denial isn’t the only type of escapism people have indulged in during the pandemic. We’ve also spent more time on social media, with 72% of survey respondents saying their social media consumption is up during the pandemic. That’s true even as news feeds became “overwhelming,” “stressful,” and an “information overload” during the pandemic.
Social media is great for staying connected, but it’s important to put boundaries around its use to keep social media from becoming a source of stress. Cut back on mindless scrolling by using timers and apps to limit time on social media, decluttering your social media feed by getting rid of content you don’t enjoy, and keeping your phone out of sight, out of mind when doing things that deserve your full attention.
Manage Stress and Comfort Eating
Eating poorly is another bad pandemic habit that people hope to kick. It’s natural to crave comfort foods in times of high stress, but after more than 18 months, waistlines are starting to take note.
Unhealthy diets do more than promote weight gain, however. Poor eating habits disrupt gut health, slow immune function, and impair moods, energy, and concentration. That makes pandemic stress even harder to deal with, so it’s important to get back into healthy eating patterns.
Build your meals around high-quality proteins, complex carbohydrates, and nutrient-rich vegetables. Don’t worry about losing weight right now. Instead, focus on rebuilding the eating habits that help you feel your best. Meal plan and use meal delivery services to close the gap on days you don’t feel like cooking. When you feel the urge to stress eat, use mindfulness to check in with your needs. You might find that a glass of water, a short walk, or a fun distraction satisfies your craving.
Catch Up on Preventive Care
When you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re also less likely to visit the doctor. After extended periods of less-than-healthy behavior, we’re afraid of the bad news we might receive. However, there are some types of care it’s simply unwise to put off. That includes cancer screenings, mental health treatment, follow-ups for chronic illness, and check-ups for new and concerning symptoms.
It also includes dental cleanings. While home care goes a long way to prevent gingivitis and gum disease, it’s not a replacement for cleanings from your dental hygienist. Pressing dental concerns like tooth pain, broken teeth or fillings, or bleeding and swollen gums also shouldn’t be ignored.
Clinicians are taking measures to protect staff and patients from COVID-19 so you can feel confident visiting your dental hygienist. As an added precaution, schedule your dental appointment first thing in the morning or immediately after lunch.
It’s normal for healthy habits and routines to fall to the wayside during times of high stress. However, neglecting your well-being too long leads to bigger problems. As the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel grows nearer, get life back on track with these tips and if you have a loved one who cannot easily access the dental office due to health concerns, let RDHAP Connect link you with a registered dental hygienist in alternative practice in your community.
It is now October 2021. Who would have thought that we would be still be talking about COVID? In my March 2020 post I recall mentioning "this will be remembered as the year of COVID19". I had no idea how true that would be. It has since morphed into the year (2021) of the Delta variant of COVID19. Yikes.
I am blogging today because I worry, as do my dental hygiene colleagues, about your oral preventive care. The question is: Are you afraid to get your teeth cleaned? Are you waiting to schedule your cleaning appointment until the pandemic is over? Read on and rest assured your oral health is important and we are here for you.
When the COVID pandemic first occurred, dental office personnel became fearful that the aerosol produced during the practice of dentistry would be a super spreader of the virus. To their credit, dentists, dental hygienists, and the staff members have done such an admirable job of reducing and controlling aerosols.
To back track a bit, just to refresh our memories. Webster defines an aerosol as a very fine solid or liquid dispensed in gas that is emitted from a container. These very small particles are so small they often linger in the air for a long period of time - minutes to hours - versus the seconds droplets linger in the air. Think of the mist from a perfume spray as compared to droplet or sprinkle of water. This is a very basic comparison. A deep dive could fill a book.
In the context of a dental office, aerosols that could possibly contain bacteria and other pathogens come mainly from:
We have long protected ourselves, as clinicians, from these aerosols with the use of face masks, goggles, and clinical gowns. Since the entrance of the COVID pandemic, dental practice quickly adapted to protect the patient, as well. Not from us, as the dental office personnel should have been protected already, but from the patient who was in the treatment room before you. As I noted earlier, we know aerosols can hang in the air for minutes to hours after they enter the air.
All that stated, the basic precautions you, the patient, could take would be to schedule your appointment:
If you at all have a disability, disease, or condition that would make you at extreme risk or overly concerned, please contact an RDHAP or direct access dental hygienist. In California, an RDHAP can provide your dental hygiene care in the comfort of your home or bedside until you feel safe returning to the dental practice.
Thank you to guest author Eva Benoit. firstname.lastname@example.org
By the time you reach adulthood, you may feel like you know your teeth pretty well. You use them to talk, eat, and smile daily, but there are things about your teeth that may surprise you. RDHAP Connect invites you to read on for 10 facts that you probably didn’t know about your teeth.
Facts About Teeth Grinding
Facts About Crooked Teeth
Facts About Tooth-strengthening Foods
Knowing more about your teeth can help you take better care of your dental health. And to keep your smile healthy, don’t forget to book routine check-ups and cleanings every six months. If you’re ever worried about your teeth, don’t ignore them. Get in touch with your dentist to make sure that your dental health keeps you grinning.
Are you looking for a dental hygiene provider? Look no further than RDHAP Connect to find a registered dental hygienist in California. More than forty states have privately practicing dental hygienists who can care for patients outside the traditional dental office setting. Visit the American Dental Hygienists' Association to find a link to the dental hygiene organization in your state.
Post written by guest blogger, Kevin Wells of seniordiabetic.com
Oral health appears to be linked with overall health, but many seniors find the cost of dental care prohibitive. Thankfully, there are opportunities to ensure you receive the care you need. Read on for practical advice on giving those pearly whites the best possible care so you can enjoy the best quality of life in your senior years.
Window to Well-Being
When it comes to things people of all ages dread, dental visits probably rank close to the top. We don’t look forward to the physical discomfort of the exam and the potential work that might be needed, and sometimes our providers aren’t conveniently located. On top of all that, there is the expense involved. However, oral health is a window into your general well-being, and some research indicates a link between poor oral health and other serious health conditions. For instance, heart disease, diabetes complications, respiratory infections, and even dementia seem to correlate with what’s going on inside your mouth. Routine visits to your dentist are important since they can mean catching issues before they become worse.
One Less Worry
Among the reasons seniors avoid seeing the dentist is the hassle of getting to and from appointments. Many people like to schedule back-to-back medical appointments, and if locations are spread out, the building is challenging to navigate, or transportation is an issue, it can keep you going. If your care provider isn’t conveniently located, you can use this search tool to find a dentist nearby.
Costs, Care, and Coverage
Forbes notes that for many seniors, the affordability of dental care is a significant obstacle to routine visits. Original Medicare provides minimal help with dental care, such as in a hospital setting. Routine care, such as dentures, fillings, or extractions, normally are beyond coverage. Thankfully, seniors can often find coverage through Medicare Advantage plans, which also offer assistance with other things that fall outside Original Medicare, including vision care, prescription drugs, hearing exams, and wellness programs.
Sometimes, Medicaid provides coverage for adult dental care, but programs vary by state and procedure. If you cannot afford insurance and it’s not available to you through Medicaid, another option is to search out low- or no-cost dental clinics. Your state dental association can help you locate programs near you; use this guide to find contact information.
Good Habits Are Hard to Break
There are a couple of key habits that help ensure your mouth stays healthy. Make sure you follow a solid dental care regimen, including daily brushing and flossing, using an antibacterial mouthwash and a quality toothbrush. Avoid using tobacco products, visit your dentist regularly, and if you notice any changes or have pain in your mouth, make an appointment.
Along with keeping your mouth clean, watching for trouble, and attending exams, proper eating and drinking habits also weigh into oral health. Consuming enough water helps to avoid dry mouth, and proper nutrition provides the components your body needs to keep your mouth healthy. For instance, protein, calcium, and phosphorus are needed for tooth structure. Vitamin D, folate, zinc, and iron contribute positively to immune function. Processed foods, especially those high in sugar, are hard on dental health and are best avoided. For optimal results, try to include plenty of antioxidant-rich foods, probiotics, and whole foods in your diet.
If you dread visiting your dentist for any reason, look for ways to make it better. Discuss your fears with the dentist. If you are not comfortable with their response to your concerns you can consider finding a new dentist. Look for affordable options. Embrace some healthy habits to keep your mouth feeling and looking its best. If you have general health concerns about visiting a dentist during this time of COVID 19, there are dental hygienists who can visit you in your home to provide dental hygiene care and reduce the number of visits you may need to the dentist office. Call your state Dental Hygienists’ Association to find one.
Your oral health reflects your general wellness, so taking good care of your teeth will give you plenty to smile about throughout your golden years.
In California, RDHAP Connect can connect you to dental hygiene providers in your community. Go to https://www.rdhapconnect.com/i-need-an-rdhap.html to find a dental hygienist near you. You can also call 209-406-7606 or fill out a contact form.
Elena Francisco, RDHAP, MS has been practicing dental hygiene for over 40 years and has been an RDHAP since 2005.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors. Guest authors are responsible for the material in their posts. The material shared is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical or dental advice. The accuracy of information in these posts are not guaranteed. RDHAP Connect is not responsible for the actions of products or advertisers linked to posts.