Diabetes affects many children across America, and it requires specific and daily care in order to manage the condition and avoid any life-threatening problems. Oral care is an area you might not think about, but diabetes also has dental implications for children. In order to be sure your child's teeth and gums remain healthy, you need to know the dangers that diabetes poses to your child's oral health and what care they need in order to prevent them.
What are the potential dental complications that come with diabetes?
If blood sugar is not properly controlled, the teeth can be affected. Those who have diabetes are more likely to have dry mouth and have more trouble with tooth decay, as higher sugar levels in body fluids, including blood and saliva, foster the growth of bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria can also cause gum disease. Another common problem that children have is thrush infections, which are caused by yeast that feed on elevated sugar levels present in the oral cavity. Therefore, one of the most effective things you can do to protect your child's oral health is to make controlling blood sugar the number one priority. Following doctor-prescribed diets and treatment regimens will not only be essential for preventing spikes and valleys in blood sugar, but they will also protect the teeth.
Unfortunately, when those who have diabetes do contract gum disease, blood sugar becomes even more difficult to control. For this reason, proper preventative dental care is needed as soon as children are ready to see the dentist.
What other preventative care is needed?
While dental care is needed for all children, children with diabetes should learn that dental care is essential to their health. Parents should be especially vigilant in keeping regular cleaning appointments and following the treatment plans that their pediatric dentist prescribes. Other care methods include:
- using fluoridated toothpaste and drinking water that has added fluoride. Some people choose to use toothpaste that is fluoride-free, but this is not as wise with children who are diabetic. Because their teeth are more open to decay, the fluoride will give them an added level of protection.
- flossing daily. Normally, missing a day or two of floss will not result in permanent damage. Diabetic children, however, should floss everyday. If they are still quite young, parents should assist them.
- supplementing with low-acid, sugar-free candies. Acid is damaging to enamel, and sugary candy will elevate blood sugar and the sugar present in the mouth, making it even harder for the body to fight off harmful bacteria.
- brushing with a soft toothbrush. The gums and soft tissues of diabetic children are more susceptible to inflammation and they take longer to heal. Therefore, you should always choose extra-soft brushes and brush very gently and slowly. A thorough cleaning may take longer than usual.
What are signs of danger?
Even with great care and carefully monitored blood sugar, problems can arise. Be sure to contact the dentist as soon as possible if you notice that your child has:
- red and puffy gums that frequently bleed when brushed. Bleeding gums is an early sign of gum disease. Because gum disease will make diabetes symptoms worse, it should be treated as soon as possible.
- gums that appear to be lifting from the teeth. This is another sign of poor gum health.
- terrible breath that does not go away after brushing and cleaning the tongue. Bacteria can cause bad breath. Even if gums appear healthy, your child could have a section that is decaying or have higher-than-normal levels of active bacteria in the mouth.
If you are worried about caring for your diabetic child's teeth, talk to a local pediatric dentist in your area. They will be able to help you form a daily care plan and provide more information.