November is Diabetes Awareness Month! Let's take a moment to shine some light on one specific type of diabetes that is often misunderstood. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that can develop in anyone at any age. T1D occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys insulin producing cells in your pancreas. A few quick facts:
Type 1 Diabetes:
- IS an autoimmune disease. This means that it occurs when your immune system attacks cells in your own body.
- IS NOT caused by eating sugar or being overweight. Most current research shows that genetics, certain viruses and environmental factors may all play a role in triggering the autoimmune attack that quickly leads to T1D.
- IS NOT a childhood disease. The autoimmune attack that leads to type 1 diabetes can happen at any age. In 2018 there were approximately 40,000 people newly diagnosed with T1D in the US - 18,000 of those people were under the age of 20, while 22,000 were over the age of 20. There is not a cure for T1D at this time.
- IS often initially misdiagnosed, especially in adults. Blood testing for autoantibodies is important if someone is exhibiting symptoms of T1D
Type 1 Diabetes and Oral Health
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is very important for overall health, including your oral health! When blood sugar levels consistently run high, sugar content in salvia is also high. The excess sugar feeds the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. It also creates an more acidic environment which is harmful to oral tissues. Healing abilities are diminished during periods of low or high blood sugar. All of these things together make it harder for your body to repair damaged tissues, which can lead to an increase in cavities and gum disease. The good news is that there are ways to prevent oral complications!
Having healthy teeth and gums will actually help you achieve healthy blood sugar levels. Active infections such as gum disease make it very difficult to rein in blood sugar levels. Prevent infection by practicing excellent oral care, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and working hard to keep blood sugar in optimal range.
7 Tips for Healthy Teeth and Gums:
- Use an electric toothbrush
- Use floss, proxy brushes, and/or a Waterpik daily to get the tough in-between spots
- Don't use tobacco
- Use dry mouth products if you feel like your oral tissues are dry or cracking
- Try your best to keep blood sugar levels in range
- Eat a healthy balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients
- See you dental hygienist and dentist at least twice a year. It is often beneficial to have your teeth cleaned more frequently when you have diabetes. Discuss the option of a 3 or 4 month cleaning schedule with your dental professional.