Is it time for your child to get braces? Whether they are dealing with crooked teeth, overcrowding or cross-bites, it’s a common rite of passage for many American children who are growing into their smiles.
The sticker shock alone may be hard for some parents to swallow, but for parents of children with diabetes there may be some added concerns as well—namely how their child’s braces could affect their diabetes and oral health.
Diabetes and Gum Disease
Diabetes can affect all areas of your child’s health, from vision to kidneys, and it can even cause severe dental issues, such as gum disease or periodontal disease, if their blood sugars aren’t well controlled. In addition, gum disease can put added stress on the gums, which can often complicate orthodontic treatments like braces, especially when they are first applied.
[See also: The Basics of Blood Sugar and Understanding Pediatric Diabetes]
“Oral health and blood sugar levels are connected to each other,” said Rachel Calendo, a pediatric nurse practitioner and diabetes program manager at Banner Health in Arizona. “Hyperglycemia, which is a high blood sugar level that is prolonged, can cause many dental issues such as brittle teeth, cavities, thrush, mouth ulcerations, altered tastes, frequent mouth infections and mucosal injury.”
Diabetes and Orthodontics
While having a metal mouth for a while may get them straighter teeth, you certainly don’t want it to be at another cost—their health. The good news is that technology has gotten so much better and most, if not all, orthodontists are knowledgeable and skilled in treating patients with diabetes.
“Today, most patients have access to continuous glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps that work in tandem to adjust insulin precisely and better manage blood sugar in a tighter range,” Calendo said. “This helps our patients with diabetes be more successful and helps ensure excellent orthodontic outcomes.”
Tips for Managing Blood Sugar Levels and Preventing Gum Disease
There are also some things you can help your child develop to control their blood sugar levels and prevent gum disease. Here are nine tips to help your child manage their blood sugar and get that winning smile.
1. Brush after every meal, or at least twice daily at a minimum.
Braces make it harder to keep teeth clean and kiddos have to spend much more time on dental care then before braces. Don’t forget to floss once a day too!
2. Manage low blood sugar on-the-go with braces-friendly options.
Some good portable options are juice boxes or rolls of Smarties candies, which are small and compact and not chewy, so they’re a good alternative to glucose tabs. Each roll of Smarties has six grams of fast-acting carbohydrates.
3. Rinse your mouth out with water and clean your teeth after taking simple sugar.
You don’t want sugar kept on the surface of their teeth for a long time; this is especially important if treating low blood sugar overnight.
4. Schedule professional dental cleanings.
Your child’s dentist will recommend how often they should go to the dentist.
5. Check your child’s blood sugar at the usual time(s).
Normal blood sugar levels will help your child’s body fight off bacterial and fungal infections in their mouth and relieve dry mouth.
6. Take medications as directed and stick to a regular, healthy diet.
It’s important your child doesn’t skip any prescribed medications and sticks to a consistent diet.
7. Bring your glucometer to every orthodontic appointment.
If your child’s blood sugar needs to be routinely checked, it’s a good idea to bring a glucometer with you or watch your child’s continuous glucose monitor for current blood sugar levels or trends.
8. Consider morning appointments.
Usually morning appointments are better, so your child can have their usual morning breakfast and take their morning medicine before seeing their orthodontist.
9. Let the orthodontist know if there are changes in oral health.
Contact your child’s orthodontist if you experience any of the following:
- Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
- Gums that are swollen, red or tender
- Teeth sensitivity
- Change in bite
For more information about your child’s diabetes management, contact your doctor or speak with a Banner Health specialist. To find a provider near you, visit bannerhealth.com.
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