The health of your teeth and gums can be affected by more than how often you brush and the sugar in your diet. There are several health conditions that can hurt your teeth, and changes in your dental health can even be symptoms of those conditions.
High Blood Sugar and Tooth Decay
A whopping 10% (34 million!) of the US population are diagnosed with diabetes. According to the CDC, approximately 77 million Americans are also pre-diabetic. That means that 1 out of 3 Americans have no idea that they suffer from high blood sugar.
Why Do People Get Diabetes?
Your blood sugar levels are controlled by your pancreas, which produces insulin to balance sugars in your body. If you’ve ever had a chronic illness or severe infections that may have weakened your immune system, your pancreas may have been damaged. Childhood diabetes (type 1) is diagnosed because the pancreas stops producing insulin completely. Young, healthy-seeming adults can also be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after a severe illness (such as COVID19).
Type 2 diabetes is usually related to a poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity (although there are some exceptions). It’s critical for both types that the A1C (the test that measures blood sugar levels for 3 months) remains at healthy levels for proper organ function, usually below 7%.
Test Your Blood Sugar
Frequent fatigue, blurry vision, and teeth problems can all be signals of high blood sugar or diabetes. Contact your doctor and get a simple blood sugar test if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. If you suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, make sure to take good care of your teeth. In addition to brushing, flossing and maintaining good gum health, you need to manage your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy A1C to prevent tooth decay (learn more at cdc.gov). Untreated diabetes can be deadly. Talk to your doctor at your annual physical and get a simple blood sugar test to make sure that your body is processing sugar correctly. Be sure to tell your dentist during dental exams and check-ups if you are either diabetic or prediabetic.
Gastrointestinal Disease and Oral Manifestations
Many people forget that the beginning of their digestive tract is their mouth! Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome can harm your body's ability to absorb nutrition–which can lead to malnutrition and tooth decay. Without proper nutrition, your body’s microbiome can become unbalanced—bad bacteria will take over! When the microbial balance is thrown off, your immune system is weakened, cellular reconstruction slows down and your body becomes vulnerable to infection.
Besides the toilet-related symptoms associated with these diseases, there are many other uncomfortable symptoms. Bleeding gums, excessive cavities, and tooth decay can also be a sign of gastrointestinal disease. Protect your gut’s microbiome and take action. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing oral health problems and be sure to tell your dentist if you’re diagnosed with gastrointestinal disease.
- Teeth Grinding Due to Stress
Grinding our teeth (bruxism) is terrible for our teeth. But what can we do about it when it happens? The majority of people who grind their teeth suffer from constant stress and/or anxiety. If you have trouble sleeping or you grind your teeth at nighttime, it may be time to reflect on the reasons why.
- Therapy for a Healthy Smile
Maybe you have unresolved trauma, or perhaps you’re struggling financially. Grinding your teeth may be a sign that you need to start addressing these background stressors. Find a therapist who can help you work through emotional issues you might be struggling with. Times have changed, and licensed therapists are more available than ever for remote sessions.
Look into incorporating meditation into your daily routine. This could be traditional yoga-like meditation or a simple self-care ritual. Many people find a warm bath at night time followed by a hygiene routine to be a meditative practice.
Life is busy and stressful. Take the time for yourself to decompress. Your teeth will be grateful and your dentist will be proud of you!
Guard your Chompers
If you’ve tried meditation, therapy, and medication but you’re still grinding away– it might be time to buy a mouth guard to wear at night time. You might actually find yourself sleeping better and waking up more restful. Ask your dentist about the right mouth guard and how to practice good hygiene before and after wearing it.
For the Sake of Your Vanity
Your mouth is the doorway to good health. When your gums are inflamed, your teeth are dull, dingy and overly sensitive, or your breath smells foul—these are signs that your body is struggling to maintain a healthy balance. Buy yourself a nice new toothbrush (extra soft!) and some fluoride toothpaste. Buy some floss to keep in your car, in the junk drawer in the kitchen and in your bathroom. Sometimes our teeth look neglected because we’re busy and have been rushing our hygiene routines. Take your time and give your mouth some love.
● Clean your tongue.
● Floss thoroughly.
● Brush your teeth before bed and when you wake up in the morning.
● Make an appointment to see your dentist.
● Commit to consistent dental hygiene for 30 days straight.
You might find yourself avoiding sugary sweets, losing weight, and feeling more confident. Maybe you’ll jump into a health food store and buy some probiotics to take daily. Maybe you’ll drink less sugary coffee and drink more water. Just like making your bed in the morning, good dental care can be the foundation for making better life choices. Little by little, start making better habits for yourself and your body will reward you with good health.