Diabetes is estimated to affect over 400 million people worldwide. If you have diabetes, it is important to take especially good care of your oral health.

Diabetes and oral health are closely linked, making it imperative to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the ways oral health affects diabetes, and how to support good oral health if you have diabetes.


The Link Between Oral Health and Diabetes


Diabetes Can Increase the Risk of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, and high blood sugar levels are closely linked. Gum disease is often referred to as one of the main complications of diabetes.

Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, which is caused by bacteria that build up in the mouth. Because diabetes weakens the immune system, it makes it harder to fight off infections, such as gum disease.

The most important step in preventing periodontal disease is by practising a good oral hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing every day helps prevent the buildup of plaque.

Regular checkups with your dentist are another one of the best ways to prevent gum disease. Your dentist can identify gum disease in its early stages, often before you even notice any symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Irreversible damage to tooth structures and facial bones
  • Gum recession
  • Gum irritation and sensitivity
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Shifting of the teeth

It is crucial to detect and treat gum disease early to avoid serious complications, such as tooth loss. Tooth loss presents a list of complications, including dry mouth, shifting of the teeth, and a decreased ability to eat a nutritious diet.
See your dentist at least twice a year for general checkups to ensure gum disease is caught and treated as early as possible. If you notice any signs of gum disease, contact your dentist right away to schedule an appointment.


Diabetes Can Increase the Risk of Oral Health Issues

Along with gum disease, diabetes can increase your risk of other oral health problems.

Some of the most common oral health problems associated with diabetes include:

  • Cavities
  • Changes in taste (this can affect your ability to eat a nutritious diet)
  • Dry mouth
  • Thrush (a fungal infection)
  • Tooth loss
  • Gum abscesses
  • Lichen planus (an autoimmune condition)
  • Mouth ulcers

People with diabetes are more prone to infections, especially when their blood sugar isn’t under control.


Gum Disease Can Make Diabetes Worse

Advanced gum disease can cause blood sugar levels to rise, making it even harder to control blood sugar levels. This can lead to a vicious cycle where gum disease makes diabetes worse, which then causes gum inflammation and out-of-control bacteria that worsen gum disease.

Then, the cycle continues and increased gum inflammation makes it harder for insulin to work properly.


Diabetes Can Increase Healing Time After Dental Procedures

High blood glucose can cause increased healing time and a higher risk of infection after mouth surgery. If you need serious dental work or oral surgery, let your dentist know you have diabetes.

Before oral surgery or extensive dental work, ask your dentist:

  • For a detailed after-care plan
  • How to treat post-surgery soreness
  • When and how often you should be checking your blood glucose before and after your procedure
  • When you should be taking any prescribed medicines


Good Oral Health Can Help Manage Diabetes

By taking good care of their teeth and gums, individuals with diabetes can help control their blood sugar levels and prevent complications.

Good oral hygiene should involve:

  • Brushing, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle circular motions, at least twice a day for two minutes
  • Flossing daily
  • Using mouthwash once a day, if recommended by your dentist
  • Regular dental checkups and cleanings at least twice a year, or more depending on your dentist’s recommendation
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Limiting your intake of acidic or sugary foods and drinks
  • Managing gum disease
  • Drinking plenty of water to help combat dry mouth (and chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production, if recommended by your dentist)
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco products

Related Reading: What’s Involved in a General Dental Checkup

Use mouthwash once a day, if recommended by your dentist


Dry Mouth Is Common in People with Diabetes

Saliva plays a variety of important roles in oral health, including supporting a healthy pH in the mouth, clearing away cavity-causing bacteria, and rinsing away food debris. Saliva also contains protective minerals that help fight tooth decay and support healthy tissues in the mouth.

A dry mouth, a common side effect of certain diabetes medications, is a condition that occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth.

A dry mouth can lead to oral health problems such as bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. If you are experiencing dry mouth, be sure to discuss it with your dentist at your next appointment.

Diabetes can also lead to increased glucose levels in your saliva. Harmful bacteria can feed on glucose, leading to plaque formation, cavities, and gum disease.


Oral Health Problems Can Be a Warning Sign of Diabetes

In some cases, oral health problems like gum disease or tooth loss can be early signs of diabetes. The same factors that contribute to oral health problems, such as poor circulation and high blood sugar, can also contribute to diabetes.

If you have concerns about your oral health, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.


Prevention Is Key for Both Diabetes and Oral Health

The best way to manage the link between oral health and diabetes is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. This means taking good care of your teeth and gums, managing your blood sugar levels, and seeing a dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.

It is imperative to work closely with your dentist to help manage any oral health issues related to diabetes. Make sure you let your dentist know how long you’ve been diabetic, any problems you’ve experienced due to diabetes changes to your health, and any medications you take.

While the typical recommendation is seeing your dentist twice a year for general dental checkups, ask your dentist how often you should have checkups and cleanings.

Your dentist will work with you to ensure you are taking the right steps to support good oral health and manage your diabetes, such as:

  • Proper use of your diabetes medication
  • Regular physical activity
  • A healthy diet
  • No tobacco use
  • A proper oral hygiene routine, including adequate care of any removable bridgework or dentures

Eat a healthy diet. Limit foods that are high in sugar.


What Are the Signs of Oral Health Problems from Diabetes?

If you have diabetes, pay close attention to the condition of your teeth, gums, and mouth. Watch for oral health complications from diabetes, such as:

  • Red, bleeding, receding, or swollen gums
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased space between teeth

Contact your dentist right away if you notice any of these concerns.


Do You Have Oral Health Concerns?

Are you concerned about the impact of diabetes on your oral health? Our team is here to put you at ease and ensure you have the healthiest smile possible.

Schedule an appointment with our caring, knowledgeable team today. At Chelmsford Dental, our skilled team can help detect underlying problems and address any oral health issues early before they can cause further complications.

Our dentists understand the important role oral health plays in diabetes management and we’re to help you keep your teeth, mouth, and gums healthy. Contact us with any questions or book an appointment online.