Wellness watch focuses on diabetes and dental health

By Margaret Brackett - Contributing Columnist

By Margaret Brackett

Contributing Columnist


Dr. Mary Bradley Tepper, dentist, is guest this week for Newberry Notes. She works with South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs at the Pee Dee enter in Florence. A diabetes awareness recommendation will be one of the subjects discussed and also advice about tooth and gum problems.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, since 2002, the number of Americans with diabetes jumped a startling 12 percent to 20.8 million. This trend is more serious than many of us realize. Diabetes if the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and when left unchecked, may lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, tooth and gum problems and limb amputation.

There is no cure for diabetes, and unfortunately, developing this disorder is more frequently with age, in fact, close to half (10.3 million) of all cases of diabetes occur in people age 60 or older.

What is diabetes? When you digest food, it is broken down into a sugar called glucose. Glucose is the body’s fuel, but can’t be converted into energy without the hormone insulin. People with diabetes don’t properly produce or respond to insulin, causing glucose levels to build up in the bloodstream. (Reference: Friend to Friend Publication, Bankers Life and Casualty Company)

Dr. Tepper’s purpose for this interview is to advise about tooth and gum problems caused by diabetes and recommend what you can do each day to stay healthy and prevent diabetes problems.

“You should resolve each day to stay healthy with diabetes with the following suggestions:

• Follow the healthy eating plan you and your doctor or dietitian have worked out.

• Be active a total of 30 minutes most days. Ask your doctor what activities are best for you.

• Take your medicines as directed.

• Check your blood glucose every day. Each time you check your blood glucose, write the number in record book.

• Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, sores, swelling, redness, or sore toenails.

• Brush and floss your teeth every day.

• Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.

• Don’t Smoke

Diabetes can hurt teeth and gums. This problem can happen to anyone. A sticky film of germs called plaque, builds up on your teeth. High blood glucose helps germs, also called bacteria, grow. Then you can get red, sore, and swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth.

People with diabetes can have tooth and gum problems more often if their blood glucose stays high. High blood glucose can make tooth and gum problems worse. You can even lose your teeth.

Smoking makes it more likely for you to get a bad case of gum disease, especially if you have diabetes and are age 45 or older. Red, sore, and bleeding gums are the first sign of gum disease.

These problems can lead to periodontitis, an infection in the gums and the bone that holds the teeth in place. If the infection gets worse, your gums may pull away from your teeth, making your teeth look long.

You can keep your teeth and gums healthy:

• Keep your blood glucose as close to normal as possible.

• Use dental floss at least once a day. Flossing helps prevent the buildup of plaque on your teeth. Plaque can harden and grow under your gums and cause problems. Using a sawing motion, gently bring the floss between the teeth, scraping from bottom to top several times.

• Brush your teeth after each meal and snack. Use a soft toothbrush. Turn the bristles against the gum line and brush gently. Use small circular motions. Brush the front, back, and top of each tooth.

• If you wear false teeth, keep them clean

Get your teeth cleaned and your gums checked by your dentist twice a year. If your dentist tells you about a problem, take care of it right away.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises a person can reduce diabetes risk. The CDC estimates that approximately 41 million children and adults have pre-diabetes — elevated blood glucose that could develop into Type 2 diabetes. It is suggested that small lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent this progression.

1. Schedule annual checkups. Your doctor is your best partner in detecting diabetes, especially since many people don’t exhibit symptoms.

2. Exercise regularly. Walk, dance or swim — just get moving! The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of low impact exercise at least 5 days a week.

3. Eat healthy. Pile your plate with vegetables and fruit, accompanied by whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Losing five to seven percent of your body weight greatly reduces your diabetes risk.

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.

Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.