Diabetes and the Importance of Dental Care

September 16, 2019

In last month’s Diabetes Support Group meeting, Fauquier Health’s Wellness Center hosted special guest speaker Dr. Tontra Lowe. Dr. Lowe has been named one of America’s Top Dentists by the Consumers Research Council of America since 2011, and in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.   

Initially, the first question that may come to your mind is how do diabetes and dental care relate? People with diabetes are likely to experience oral symptoms such as bad breath, loose teeth due to bone loss, and thickened plaque. According to the American Dental Association, there is a link between periodontal disease and diabetes. A periodontal infection is a serious type of gum disease where the bacteria breaks down the gums and bone in the mouth that stabilize the teeth. In addition, when a person with diabetes has infections in the teeth and/or gums, his or her blood sugars can be more difficult to keep in the target range. 

Dr. Lowe kicked off the meeting by reminding everyone, “Your mouth is a part of your body.” Dr. Lowe and Beth Potter, Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian, commented on the importance of nutritional intake for those diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Nutrition starts with oral health, as the mouth is where you chew and swallow food. It is easy to allocate more time to taking care of other body parts and functions than your mouth. However, practicing proper dental hygiene is an integral component of living well with diabetes. Periodontal disease can quickly change from a small infection in the mouth into a larger problem affecting other organs if the infection spreads to the blood stream.  In people with diabetes, rampant decay can develop if glucose levels are not managed well, or if dry mouth develops due to taking multiple medications. Losing one’s teeth will affect how well a person can chew, which, in turn, affects what types of foods are eaten.  Poor diet from not being able to eat a varied diet can increase the risk for other health problems throughout the body. 

To help manage existing oral conditions and to obtain proper oral hygiene, Dr. Lowe recommended that people with diabetes see a dentist regularly – every three to four months. Also, once symptoms start to arise, don’t ignore them; for example, bleeding in the mouth is not a normal occurrence.  Should you see blood in the sink when you brush and floss your teeth, it’s best to call your dentist and make an appointment.  Another recommendation is to monitor what you feel in your mouth; if there is pain that becomes worse, or does not go away, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Most importantly, proactive care is a much better solution than reactive care.

Tontra Lowe, DDS (Awesome Smiles Dental Center) and Beth Potter, MS, RD, CDE (Fauquier Health) provided a positive group environment where attendees felt comfortable to share their experiences. The group ranged from those who have been living with diabetes for years, to those who were newly diagnosed. We are already looking forward to the next support group meeting that will take place on November 19th, from 6:30-7:30pm, in Fauquier Health’s Wellness Center.