Managing diabetes means taking care of your teeth

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Emergency Dental Care USA reminds diabetic patients that they should pay special attention to their oral health care because they are more susceptible to abscesses, gum disease and infections.

Infected tooth
Some patients may delay a necessary trip to the dentist because they're not sure what's involved in a root canal.

In recognition of National Diabetes Month in November, Emergency Dental Care USA reminds diabetic patients that they should pay special attention to their oral health care, and address potential problems as quickly as possible.

Diabetics are more susceptible to abscesses, gum disease and oral health issues because diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infection, according to the American Dental Association. Healing from infection also can be delayed if blood sugars aren't under control.

Sometimes the treatment of periodontal disease involves performing a root canal on a tooth that's damaged or infected. But some patients may delay a necessary trip to the dentist because they're not sure what's involved in a root canal, or how much it will hurt, says Michael Obeng, D.D.S., of Emergency Dental Care USA.

That’s why he takes the time to explain the basic structure of a tooth, and the root canal process before performing one on a patient who’s in pain, he said.

A tooth has three layers. The outer layer is the enamel, and under that is the dentin. The innermost segment is a chamber and a network of canals in which are nerves and blood vessels. These canals are within the roots of the tooth, which are embedded in the jawbone.

A root canal becomes necessary when the nerves and blood system within the canals of the tooth becomes infected or is damaged by trauma, Dr. Obeng said. “The most common reason for a root canal is infection -- decay enters the tooth and gets into the chamber which contains the blood supply and nerves. Or there’s trauma: you were in a car accident, got hit with a baseball or got into a fight. Sometimes even excessive grinding and clenching of teeth can cause enough trauma, leading to teeth becoming non-vital.”

The root canal procedure begins with the dentist removing the infected or traumatized portions of the tooth. “I clean out the canals and pulp chamber with tiny files as well as medicaments to disinfect the area,” he explained. “Root canal therapy on molars can take some time because there are more canals, sometimes difficult to access, and sometimes curved.”

Once the canals are completely cleaned, disinfected, and free of infection, the dentist dries them out and fills them with gutta-percha -- a rubber like compound.

Finally, a crown or like restoration is usually placed on the tooth to strengthen the tooth.

“The majority of cases will need a crown following root canal therapy,” said Dr. Obeng. “Once the root canal is done, the tooth goes from a vital to non-vital stage. There’s no more blood in the tooth, so it becomes more brittle and more susceptible to fractures. A crown also seals the tooth to help keep out bacteria.”

The steps of a root canal procedure are illustrated on the Emergency Dental Care USA website:

http://www.emergencydental.com/diabetes-root-canals

Patients who successfully manage their diabetes and oral health care can save more than $3,000 per year on their health care costs. A November 2012 survey by two health insurance companies indicated that patients with diabetes who properly manage and treat periodontal disease could save an average of $1,477 on pharmacy costs and an average of $1,814 on medical care costs per year.

The American Diabetes Association offers these tips for oral health care:

-- Have a dental checkup every six months, or as often as indicated by a professional.
-- Tell your dentist or hygienist that you have diabetes and any other medical condition.
-- Brush for two minutes a day with a toothpaste with an anti-gingival/ antibacterial ingredient to help prevent gingivitis. Make sure it's accepted by the American Dental Association.
-- Contact your dentist or hygienist if you experience any of these signs of gum disease:

  •     Gums that bleed or are red, puffy or swollen, or sore
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Pus that appears between your teeth and your gums
  • Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth

More information on oral health and hygiene for diabetics can be found on the American Diabetes Association website.

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Michael Obeng, DDS

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