Good oral care is important whether you have diabetes or not. At the July meeting of the Sequim Diabetes Support group, we were fortunate to have Cynthia Newman, registered dental hygienist, as the guest speaker.
As a nurse, I can talk in general terms about the importance of good oral care, but having a dental expert on site was a special treat.
For technical accuracy, she reviewed the facts and is available for dental cleanings at the Sequim Senior Activity Center. Call 683-6806 for more information. She already has agreed to come back again for the meeting at 10-11 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Sequim Senior Activity Center so mark your calendar right now!
Studies have shown that someone with diabetes is 2-3 times more likely to develop dental problems than someone who does not have diabetes. We think about what food to eat, but good oral care receives less attention, although both are important. Chewing food makes the particles smaller to initiate digestion. If we can’t chew properly, we aren’t able fully to extract the nutritional benefits. So let’s talk about small things that can make a big difference in enhancing good oral health.
Simply rinsing your mouth with water after eating will help to remove food particles that bacteria in our mouths use as food to multiply. Rinsing also dilutes acid that the bacteria produce after metabolizing carbohydrates. Bacteria grow and collect on the teeth, forming bacterial plaque biofilm, a thin film that coats our teeth and is the primary cause of tooth decay and gum (periodontal) disease.
The plaque biofilm can harden and is the precursor of tartar or calculus. Think of plaque as newly poured concrete while calculus is hardened and cured concrete. This comparison explains how plaque can be removed by diligent daily flossing and brushing but calculus needs to be professionally removed by a dental hygienist.
Daily flossing and brushing are two cornerstones of good oral health. Make flossing part of your nightly routine to remove plaque. Gently work the floss between and around each tooth to remove any food particles and residue. If you presently do not floss, it may feel awkward at first, but be persistent and you will reap the benefits in the long term.
Ask your dental professional what type of floss will work best for you and to teach you the proper technique. Also ask about other plaque removal aids such as interdental brushes that may be beneficial for you to use.
For brushing, select a toothbrush with soft bristles and gently brush along the gum line to remove the plaque biofilm and food particles. If you use an electric toothbrush, gently move the brush along the gum line. Excessive pressure is not needed for proper cleaning. Allow at least 2 minutes to brush your teeth thoroughly.
Select and use toothpaste that contains fluoride to help add strength to the tooth enamel to prevent both cavities and tooth sensitivity. Be careful not to rinse your mouth excessively after brushing or the fluoride will go down the drain.
With diligent oral care, you can prevent many of the dental complications that can develop with diabetes. Come with your oral care questions to the meeting on Nov. 2. There is no support group in August but you can use that time to find some bargains at the annual Senior Activity Center benefit sale in the QFC shopping center across the street!
Susan Sorensen is a registered nurse who does diabetes education in the community and can be reached at www.starladydiabetes.com.
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