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Karen Chapman Novakofski

Professor of Nutrition

Marilyn Csernus

Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness


December 2015/January 2016

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In This Issue

Diabetes - The Medical Perspective

Diabetes and Dental Health

Proper dental care and regular dental checkups are important for healthy teeth and gums, but did you know they are even more important if you have diabetes? People who have diabetes are at a greater risk for gum disease, tooth decay, and other problems with oral (mouth) health.

Like other potential complications related to diabetes the key to healthy gums and teeth is good blood glucose (sugar) control. Glucose is present in the fluid in your mouth known as saliva. If your diabetes is poorly controlled the high levels of glucose in your saliva help harmful bacteria grow. The bacteria mix with food particles to form plaque around your teeth and gums. The build-up of plaque can cause cavities, gum disease and bad breath.

Regular dental check-ups are necessary to remove plaque build-up before it turns into tartar along your gum line. Tartar can be seen as a yellowish hard substance on teeth and around the gum line. The tartar build-up makes it more difficult to brush and floss which can lead to swollen, red gums that bleed easily. This irritation and inflammation around the gum line is a condition known as gingivitis. Left untreated and without regular dental care gingivitis can progress to a more serious gum disease known as periodontitis. Periodontitis causes the gums to pull away from the teeth leaving pockets which can become infected. Over time periodontitis damages the tissue and bones that support the teeth. Care and treatment from a dentist specializing in periodontal disease is necessary to help prevent tooth loss.

The best prevention for any type of tooth or gum problem is to brush and floss regularly and schedule regular dental visits. Sometimes there are no warning signs of gum disease, so it is important to see the dentist every six months. Between visits check your mouth for any signs of gum disease such as sore, swollen, or bleeding gums. In addition, check with your dentist if you experience any of the following:

  • An ulcer or sore in your mouth that doesn't heal
  • Taste changes or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Any mouth pain

Inform your dentist that you have diabetes and update the dentist on the status of your diabetes at each visit. Make your dentist aware of any diabetes medications you take. Special considerations may need to be made for dental procedures resulting in you being unable to eat for an extended period of time. Share your dentist and physician's contact information to better coordinate your diabetes care. Non-emergency dental procedures may need to be post-phoned or rescheduled if your glucose levels are not well controlled.

Diabetes and Food

Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy will help keep blood glucose levels in check and will also help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Sugary and starchy foods that stick to your teeth will do more than raise your blood sugar. According to the American Dental Association these foods cause more risk of tooth decay when they come in contact with plaque. Sweetened beverages and particularly sweetened carbonated beverages are a problem because of the high sugar content, but also because they contain acids that wear away tooth enamel which is the hard outer shell of the tooth.

On the other hand, there are some foods that can help reduce the risk of tooth decay. Higher fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help prevent tooth decay by acting as a cleanser in the mouth. Lower fat dairy products are good choices providing calcium and phosphorus which are important for healthy teeth and bones.

Although raisins and apples are both fruits an apple would not stick to your teeth and gums like a raisin might. For dental and diabetes health, a snack of a light cheese stick and a couple of whole grain crackers is a better choice than a sugary, sticky treat. Water and unsweetened beverages and non-fat milk are good beverage choices.

Remember to make your dentist part of your diabetes care team and keep him or her well informed regarding your diabetes control and treatment plan, including all medication updates. Your physician and dentist can coordinate and individualize your medical and dental care.

Recipies to try

Stuffed Green Peppers

6 servings


  • 12 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 can (15.5-ounce) red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (6-ounce) tomato paste
  • 1 can (10-ounce) diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
  • 3 large green peppers
  • 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese


  1. Brown ground beef in medium saucepan. Add onions and cook until tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in red kidney beans, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes; heat to boiling. Reduce to low heat; simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.
  3. Wash green peppers and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds.
  4. Place green peppers cut side up in large skillet. Add about ½ inch water. Heat to boiling; cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 5 minutes until crisp tender.
  5. Remove peppers from water and drain on towel. Place cut side up on serving plate, and fill with ground meat/kidney bean/tomato mixture. Top with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.
Nutrition Facts per serving
Calories 247
Fat 11 grams
Protein 17 grams
Calories from fat 99
Carbohydrate 21 grams
Cholesterol 42 mg
Fiber 7 grams
Sodium 642 mg

Double Corn Bread

12 servings

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 egg whites (or ¼ cup egg substitute)
  • ½ cup non-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) can creamed corn
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and baking soda in large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  3. Separate eggs or measure egg substitute and place in small bowl. Add sour cream, oil, and creamed corn and mix well.
  4. Add corn mixture to dry ingredients and stir only enough to dampen flour.
  5. Spray muffin tins or 9x9 inch pan with cooking spray.
  6. Spoon batter into muffin tin or pan. Spray top lightly with cooking spray.
  7. Bake muffins for 20 minutes, pan for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm. Cut bread into 12 servings.
Nutrition facts per serving
Calories 107
Fat 4 grams
Protein 3 grams
Calories from fat 36
Carbohydrate 16 grams
Cholesterol 4 mg
Fiber 1 grams
Sodium 75 mg

Sample Menu


2 Egg vegetable omelet1 egg + ¼ cup egg beater
Red pepper, green pepper, onion¼ cup
Whole wheat English Muffin1 muffin
Soft tub margarine2 teaspoons
BananaExtra small banana
Skim milk1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 481
Carbohydrates 60 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4


Spinach salad with chicken and chickpeas* 1 serving
Whole Wheat crackers6 crackers
Tomato Soup1 cup
Apple1 small
Skim milk1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 642
Carbohydrates 68 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4.5 Choices


Stuffed Green Peppers* 1 serving
Wild rice ⅓ cup
Double Corn Bread* 1 Serving
Green Salad 1 cup
Lite Italian Dressing 2 tablespoons
Skim milk 1 cup
Nutrition Facts
Calories 619
Carbohydrates 69 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 4.5 Choices


Calories 1742
Carbohydrates 197 Grams
Carbohydrate Choices 13 Choices

*Recipies from Recipes for Diabetes at extension.illinois.edu/diabetesrecipes/ or this newsletter

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