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Diabetes and Oral Health

People with Diabetes are at increased risk for oral infections and gum disease.

Tooth and Gum Problems Can Happen to People with Diabetes

A sticky film (plaque) containing germs (bacteria) builds up on your teeth. High blood glucose (blood sugar) makes your gums more susceptible to the infections these bacteria cause. The result can be red, sore and swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. People with diabetes experience tooth and gum problems at a higher rate than others and can even lose their teeth if infections in the mouth are note controlled.

Many people who have diabetes are unaware they have gum (periodontal) disease. Sometimes a routine dental exam might reveal that you could have diabetes because many times, the mouth is a mirror for what might be happening with the rest of the body. The mouth may offer some clear-cut signals that diabetes is present. Early detection is important. If left untreated, diabetes can also make you prone to other mouth problems, such as fungal infections, poor healing and dry mouth.

Good oral hygiene at home and regular professional dental cleanings/checkups are a must. Let your dentist know if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Common Problems Associated with Diabetes

  • Gingivitis and advanced periodontal (gum) disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Delayed healing of tissue
  • Dry mouth and the sensation of burning mouth or tongue
  • Fungal infections such as thrush, which produce painful white (or sometimes red) patches in the mouth or on the tongue that may become sore or ulcerated
  • Impaired taste
  • Individuals with poorly controlled blood glucose may lose more teeth due to periodontal disease than those who have good control of their diabetes
  • Periodontal disease may make it harder to control your blood sugar levels
  • Poorly controlled diabetes may make it more difficult to treat periodontal disease
  • The adult teeth of children with diabetes may appear in the mouth sooner than those of other children

What to Expect at the Dental Office

  • To prevent or treat problems with bacterial infections in the mouth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, medicated mouth rinses and more frequent cleanings
  • You may be encouraged to make morning appointments with your dentist because blood glucose levels tend to be under better control at these times

Note: The information in this document is not meant to replace the advice of your dentist or another licensed healthcare professional. Talk to your dentist for any specific dental advice.