November is Diabetes Awareness Month. We now know that dental health affects total health, especially for people with medical conditions such as diabetes. Not only are they more likely to be diagnosed with gum disease, but gum disease can also affect their blood sugar levels and worsen the severity of diabetes.
Diabetes can lead to gum disease
Those who live with diabetes can experience reduced blood flow to the gums and dry mouth, which makes it harder for your body to control plaque bacteria. Gum disease and periodontal disease affects 95% of people with diabetes. If you have diabetes:
- You produce less saliva, and you’re more likely to get cavities
- Wounds don’t heal as quickly, so you’re more likely to get mouth infections, such as thrush
Gum disease can make diabetes worse
As with all infections, gum disease can cause blood sugar levels to rise. The higher your blood sugar, the more likely you are to develop plague buildup on your teeth; elevated sugar levels also make you more susceptible to infections and less able to fight bacteria that invade your gums.
Take control of your dental and total health
Regular visits to your dentists and good oral hygiene can help you maintain a healthy mouth and body:
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and to check your gum health
- Brush and floss twice a day and after meals
- Eat healthy — managing your blood sugar levels through your diet can help you manage bacteria levels in your mouth and minimize dry mouth
- Avoid tobacco
Additional dental services can make a difference
The best defense against poor oral health is a good offense. Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Dental XtraSM program provides additional dental benefits that can improve your overall health, including diabetes. These benefits are covered 100% when seen by a participating provider and do not count toward the calendar-year maximum.
If you have diabetes and have Arkansas Blue Cross medical and dental plans, we automatically enroll you in the program. You can also easily self-enroll online. Once enrolled, we’ll contact you and provide you with more information about the mouth-body connection and reminders to use those benefits. The sooner you take advantage of these benefits, the sooner you can better manage diabetes and improve your overall health.