October is Dental Hygiene Month which promotes awareness of dental health and how oral hygiene impacts your overall health.

For people with diabetes, managing your oral health goes hand in hand with managing your diabetes. Studies show that having diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, and that having gum disease can increase your risk of developing diabetes.

The team approach for excellent medical and dental care is the best. Be sure that your dentist and your medical doctors are connected and have a plan to ensure your dental treatments will have the healthiest and most predictable outcomes. Below are some steps to take to ensure you will have a successful dental visit.

  1. Plan ahead with your Medical team. Plan ahead and talk to your medical doctor about preparing for your dental appointment.
  2. Plan ahead with your Dental team. Tell your dental team you have diabetes and review all medications you are taking. Let your dental team know if you are on an insulin pump. Be sure to tell them the last time you ate, what your blood sugar level is during your visit and discuss the signs of hypo and hyperglycemia. Review what to do if any of these problems arise.
  3. Schedule your dental appointments around your regular insulin and meal schedules. It is very important to never skip a meal or a shot before your dental visit.
  4. Eat a healthy meal before you go to your appointment. Dental visits often take longer than expected. They may start late or a new problem may be diagnosed at your visit. Eat before you go and bring glucose tablets or juice in case you experience low blood sugar while at the dentist.
  5. Shop for soft foods before you go to the dental appointment. If you are having invasive dental treatment like fillings, extractions, or any procedure that requires anesthetic, then it is smart to have soft foods in your house ready to eat when you get home. Don’t wait to shop until after the appointment when you will likely need to eat, may have low blood sugar and may feel very tired and sore after your treatment. If you plan ahead you will be prepared to make the right food choices and will be better equipped to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
  6. Have a stable blood sugar level. Know your blood sugar level prior to starting your dental appointment and check your blood sugar levels throughout your dental appointment.
  7. Bring the supplies you regularly use to raise or lower your glucose levels. If your dental visit goes longer than you planned, be prepared to adjust your sugar levels while in the dental chair. You may be numb and unable to chew. Have with you soft foods that will help to stabilize your glucose levels and/or medications like glucose tablets or glucose gels in the event you need to stabilize your sugar during your dental treatment.

It is important for you to plan ahead for your dental visit. If you follow my recommended steps, then you and your dental team will be prepared for a smooth and predictable dental visit.

Remember, diabetes increases your chances of developing gum disease. Diabetes can also diminish saliva production (hypo-salivation). Saliva is one of the best defenses against bacteria. Dry mouth products such as Biotene from GlaxoSmithKline can help. Bacteria can lead to gum infections. If bacteria enter the bloodstream, it could lead to other health problems including heart disease. So in addition to important dental visits, practice good oral hygiene at home – this will also make dental visits more pleasurable!

NOTE: Consult with your dentist or doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.