Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about the dental needs of a diabetic. Diabetes can seriously affect your entire body, though many areas are ignored much of the time. Many people like to focus on the feet and the heart, and while those are very important, there are many other areas at risk for diabetics as well. When you have diabetes, there are many things to keep track of: your blood sugar levels, your medication doses, and your regular doctor’s appointments. However, there is one thing that people with diabetes often neglect: their dental health. If you are a diabetic, you know that your oral health is vital to your overall health. (Your mouth is the gateway to your bloodstream after all!)
Gum Disease and Tooth Decay
Diabetics are at a higher risk for gum disease and tooth decay. This is because the disease affects the body’s ability to properly manage its blood sugar levels. The cells that produce hormones that regulate blood sugar don’t function properly and sugar can’t reach the cells that need it, making it by-pass the cells and creating a toxic by-product, called acid. This acid causes damage to the teeth and gums. To help prevent the onset of these problems, diabetics should see a dentist every 6 months.
As discussed above, one of the most overlooked areas for diabetics is the mouth. Like all other areas of the body, the nerves in the mouth can be damaged quite easily as a result of diabetes. This can result in a wide variety of dangerous and uncomfortable issues.
For example, you may lose some of your sense of taste, which is not only a massive inconvenience, but can also be incredibly dangerous if you ingest something poisonous and you dont realize it.
Prone to Infections
Another serious effect diabetes can have on your mouth is that you may be at greater risk of things like infections. Since diabetes damages your nerves, your body may not realize that an infection has begun until its already spread and is too big to take on without medicine.
In some cases this can lead to symptoms as minor as bad breath and as major as severe gum disease. This nerve damage can also make it difficult for your body to heal wounds in your mouth properly.
Slower Wound Healing
Sometimes it’s difficult for your body to send the proper signals necessary for wound healing, so it can take it bit longer for the whole process. Combined with the bacteria-rich environment that is your mouth, and you have the perfect recipe for infections.
You also may experience a drier mouth with diabetes. Production of saliva won’t be nearly as good, so you may end up with and uncomfortable dry mouth feeling. However, the comfort isn’t the only concern; a dry mouth puts you at greater risk of getting cavities, since helps saliva protects against that.
Diabetics are also at higher risk of gingivitis, a type of gum disease in which your gums get enflamed, swollen, red, and can even begin to bleed. Although, you can avoid gingivitis if you keep up good oral hygiene habits.
Visit Your Dentist!
This means its very important that you visit your dentist regularly so they can make sure youre not showing any signs of any of these diseases, as they could easily cause further complications such as a weakened immune system. Its been shown in various lab studies that regular visits to a dentist can lower blood sugar in diabetics, making it easier to control overall
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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