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Ask The Doctor: Common Questions from Patients With Diabetes

How to manage your diabetes, build a healthy lifestyle, and avoid dental woes

By Dr. Lauren Powell and Listerine® Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash
Woman smiling, holding her neck

Managing your diabetes can be difficult - Here, Dr. Lauren Powell, M.D., Family Medicine Physician, answers three questions commonly asked by her patients with diabetes.

How do I know if my diabetes is getting better or worse?

It is important to see your physician regularly. During these regular visits, doctors can perform a test to measure what's called a HbA1C/hemoglobin A1C. This test measures your average blood sugar over the past 3 months. Unless a patient has specific conditions such as kidney disease, this is good way to see how controlled or uncontrolled the diabetes is which then directs us how to adjust the patient's treatment plan. For many patients with diabetes, a goal HbA1C is 7, but this goal can vary based on the individual patient's age and other medical conditions.

What food and lifestyle practices are important to maintain if I have diabetes?

Regular physical activity is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity is important especially in those with diabetes because exercise improves how the body responds to insulin, thereby improving/lowering blood sugar levels. I generally suggest to my patients that they get a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.

In terms of food and nutrition, a well-balanced diet that is low in simple carbohydrates is key. Simple carbs include things like white rice, cookies and treats, white bread, candy, and soda. These items will increase blood sugar levels very quickly when consumed. So even though we like these sweet treats, try to limit them, and instead pile up the vegetables, quality protein, and complex carbohydrates that also have fiber, thereby preventing the huge spikes in blood sugar levels. Complex carbs include things like whole grain bread, brown rice and quinoa, and noodles made from beans.

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How does diabetes affect my oral health and what can I do to prevent this?

Chronic high blood glucose levels are associated with the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can form a sticky film called plaque. If not treated, plaque can harden into tartar and eventually lead to gum disease. Regular brushing and flossing once a day are important for maintaining good oral health. Additionally, I recommend that my patients rinse with Listerine® Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash twice daily for 30 seconds to maintain a healthy mouth. Studies conducted by Listerine set out to highlight the importance of prioritizing oral health for people with controlled diabetes, concluded that using Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash twice a day in combination with a good oral healthcare routine helps to prevent and reduce plaque & gingivitis in people with controlled diabetes. Using Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash reduced gingivitis by 39%, bleeding gums by over 75%, and plaque by 25% in 7 days, all in people with controlled diabetes. (Shown in a clinical study vs. brushing alone in people with controlled diabetes. Intended to treat early gum disease.)

What are some of the long-term effects of diabetes and how can I avoid them?

Diabetes is a complex disease state that has the potential to affect many systems in our bodies. If the diabetes is uncontrolled for an extended period, the person may have very high blood sugar levels and they are at increased risk of stroke, eye disease, kidney disease and nerve problems. It is important to see a doctor regularly to monitor the diabetes and to make sure medical management is optimized. A wholistic approach to diabetes is needed in order to make sure the diabetes is well controlled. This means that medications and lifestyle modifications work hand-in-hand.

dr. lauren powell, standing in her white doctor's coat wearing a salmon colored shirt
Dr. Lauren Powell is a board certified family medicine physician. She is known as The Culinary Doctor because she likes to teach people how to use food as medicine. She takes a wholistic approach to disease management and believes that by helping people achieve optimal health, they can live a life and leave a legacy bigger than their wildest dreams. Read More
Listerine® Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash
By Listerine® Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash

For more than 100 years, Listerine® has been a leader in oral care, with scientists driving foundational research on the many powerful benefits of mouthwash. In 2020, Listerine® set out to highlight the importance of prioritizing oral health for people with controlled diabetes through a study that examined the efficacy of Listerine® Cool Mint on plaque/gingivitis prevention/reduction when used twice daily as an adjunct to tooth brushing in people with controlled Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

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