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Diabetes and Dental Care – What to Know

Your dentist may be able to spot early signs of diabetes which, if left untreated, can cause major health problems.

What is diabetes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes affects more than 37 million people in the United States – and one in five don’t even know they have it. Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body is able to produce or properly use insulin. When your blood sugar (glucose) goes up, your pancreas releases insulin. When there isn’t enough of it or your cells stop responding to it, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. That imbalance over time can cause serious health problems including heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

There are four types of diabetes:

How diabetes affects oral health

Having uncontrolled diabetes limits your body’s ability to defend itself against bacterial infection. Because of this, you put yourself at higher risk for early-stage gum disease (gingivitis) and advanced gum disease (periodontitis). Having any of these gum diseases also makes it difficult for those with diabetes to control their blood sugar.

Possible oral symptoms of diabetes

  • Rapidly progressing periodontal (gum) disease
  • Gum inflammation
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor healing of oral tissues
  • Thrush
  • Burning mouth and/or tongue

Be sure to let your dentist know if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or if you are experiencing symptoms of the disease.

Tips to keep in mind:

  • If diagnosed with diabetes, always monitor your blood sugar levels and take your medications as directed
  • Maintain a healthy diet and make exercise part of your daily routine
  • Avoid smoking
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily
  • If you use dentures, clean them at least once a day
  • See your dentist at least twice a year

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey gives you the tools to help you make smart health care decisions so you can better manage your health. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, the Chronic Care Program may be able to help. For more information, call 1-888-334-9006, Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Eastern Time.

Note: Not all programs are available to all members. Please check with your benefits administrator to determine if you are eligible for this service.