(CNN) -Did you know gum disease is a common side effect of diabetes?
Symptoms like bleeding gums are an indication you should see your dentist right away. Ultimately, tooth loss can occur.
Those living with diabetes are three times more likely to get gum disease than healthy people.
"Diabetes changes the way the body reacts to bacteria. We all have bacteria in our mouths and it's a matter of keeping it in a balance," explained Dr. Robert Gyurko, a periodontist at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.
Dr. Gyurko says diabetes essentially overtaxes and thus weakens the immune system. In the mouth, that can lead to gingivitis. In a worst case scenario, gum disease, which can lead to loss of teeth.
"The number one thing they have to do is to control their blood glucose," Dr. Gyurko said.
Dr. Gyurko says high blood sugar levels, carried to the mouth, result in inflammation of the gums.
Regular professional cleanings are definitely important, but what those with diabetes do every day can have a major impact. Plaque is a bacterial film that must be mechanically removed by brushing and flossing. Dr. Gyurko says technique is more important than frequency.
"Put the brush on an angle," he suggests.
So, brush gently after meals, or at least twice a day, using a soft toothbrush. And don't forget to massage the gums with that brush using gentle, circular motions.
In other health news, be sure to mark your calendar for the free skin cancer screenings at the Leah M. Fitch Cancer Center in Lawton. It will be held on Saturday, May 14, from 8 a.m. until noon. To schedule an appointment, call 580-250-6565.