How Diabetes Affects Your Child’s Oral Health

How Diabetes Affects Your Child’s Oral Health

About 15% of Americans living with type 1 diabetes are children, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. However, more and more children also are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. If you suspect your child has diabetes, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with their primary care provider as soon as possible. If your child has already been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to ask their pediatric dentist about how it’ll affect their oral health.

Tooth Decay

A common symptom of diabetes is excessive thirst. However, even after your child is diagnosed, you’ll need to make sure they’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated. While it may seem weird to think about, your child needs saliva to wash plaque and food particles off teeth. If your child has chronic dry mouth, they won’t be able to wash away plaque that causes tooth decay and gingivitis.

Dry mouth not only increases your child’s risk of cavities, but aggravates the side effects of diabetes. If your child is prone to dry mouth, tuck a water bottle in their backpack that they can use at school. Your child’s dentist will also be able to remove plaque from teeth during their dental cleaning.

Gum Disease

Does your child complain of bleeding or sore gums? Studies have shown a link between poor blood sugar control and an increased risk of gum disease. Gum disease is an infection caused by untreated plaque buildup. Diabetes can increase your risk for gum disease by flooding the mouth with enough glucose to help the bacteria found in plaque thrive.

How can I help protect my child’s oral health?

Your child’s oral health is connected to their overall health. This means that the sooner your child can control blood sugar levels, the sooner their oral health will improve. Once your child sees their primary care physician, your next call should be to their dentist.

A teeth cleaning every 6 months will remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing their risk for gum disease. A dental cleaning will also give your child’s dentist the opportunity to catch small oral health issues before they worsen. For example, your child’s dentist can start gingivitis treatment at the first sign of gum disease. Their dentist may also recommend a fluoride treatment to strengthen tooth enamel.

At home, make sure that your child brushes teeth twice a day and flosses once daily. Brushing teeth is one of the best ways your child can protect their teeth and gums from plaque buildup. Flossing will also ensure that your child removes plaque hiding in between teeth and along the gum line. If your child doesn’t brush their teeth thoroughly enough, it may help to sing a song. Most dentists say that you should brush teeth for about 2 minutes to remove plaque.

Dr. Kingma DDS and his team are dedicated to helping your child maintain good oral health. To schedule an appointment with our Grand Rapids pediatric dentist, call Kingma Pediatric Dentistry at (616) 942-9840.