Author: Betsy Hornick, MS, RD, LD
Source: Health Wise
Formula For A Healthy Smile
Behind every smile is a daily routine that includes brushing and flossing along with good nutrition. For people with diabetes, oral care is especially important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
Diabetes and Dental Health
The health of your mouth is affected by diabetes in several ways. Having higher than normal blood sugar levels increases your risk of developing dental problems, such as tooth decay and loss, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), periodontitis (infection of the gums), and other infections. At the same time, dental disease can make it harder to control your blood sugar.
Why are people with diabetes at greater risk for dental problems? Simply, bacteria in your mouth thrive on sugar (glucose). This invites the growth of bacteria that eventually can lead to problems with your teeth and gums. Dental disease can develop more swiftly if your blood sugar is not well-controlled. In time, dental disease can lead to the loss of bone and teeth. Regular dental checkups are essential. Be sure to let your dentist know that you have diabetes. Dentists can recognize early signs of dental disease as well as signs that indicate how well your blood sugar is controlled. In fact, dentists often see the first symptoms of diabetes in your mouth. These include dryness in the mouth and sweet-smelling breath.
Daily Oral Care
In addition to seeing your dentist regularly, you should care for your mouth on a daily basis with a routine of both brushing and flossing. Your goal is to remove plaque, which is a gummy film made up of bits of food, saliva, and bacteria that forms between your teeth and along your gum line. If plaque is not cleaned from your teeth, it hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Brush at least twice a day. Use a brush with soft bristles and rounded ends, which are gentler on your gums. Use a gentle scrubbing motion on all surfaces of your teeth and on your gums. Aim to brush for about 3 minutes at each brushing.
Floss at least once a day. Without flossing, brushing only does half the job. Flossing helps to clean away plaque that forms at the gum line and remove tiny pieces of food from between your teeth and gums in places where your brush cannot reach.
Eat Right For A Healthy Smile
Your food choices and eating habits also affect the health of your smile. Many of the foods that help your body build and maintain strong muscles and bones also help build strong, healthy teeth and gums.
- Dairy products provide calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus to build and maintain strong teeth and bones.
- Breads and cereals supply B vitamins for growth, and iron for healthy blood, which in turn contributes to healthy gum tissue.
- Many fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C and folic acid (among other important nutrients), which help protect against gum disease.
- Lean meat, fish, poultry, and beans not only supply iron and protein for overall good health, but provide magnesium and zinc that are vital for teeth and gums.
Tooth decay and gum disease occur when bacteria in your mouth mix with the carbohydrates you eat (sugars and starches) to form plaque that clings to the surfaces of your teeth and along your gum line. If plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it can dissolve tooth enamel, causing tooth decay, and make your gums red, tender, and likely to bleed.
Your eating habits can help or hinder your chances of healthy teeth and gums. The most important diet-related factors are:
Type of Food – Any food that contains carbohydrate – pasta, bread, rice, chips, fruit, even milk, as well as cake, cookies, and candy – can “feed” the bacteria in plaque. But foods that stick to your teeth allow plaque to continue its action long after you stop eating or drinking. This can include foods like chewing gum, raisins and other dried fruits, and some candies as well as starchy foods like breads, cereals, or chips which stick between your teeth or in the pits of your molars. Other foods such as cheese, peanuts and sugar-free chewing gum may help protect your teeth from decay by increasing saliva flow and decreasing plaque formation.
How Often You Eat – The more often you eat carbohydrate foods, especially between meals, the more opportunity plaque has to attack teeth. Nibbling on chips or crakers or slowly sipping a sweetened drink bathes teeth with carbohydrates and continues for 20 to 40 minutes after finishing. Go easy on between meal snacking and when you do snack, try to eat the snack at one time rather than over a longer period. And whenever possible, brush and rinse your mouth after you snack.