Diabetes and Your Oral Health
Diabetes can affect your teeth, gums and the overall health of your mouth.
This page reviews the oral health problems that are related to diabetes and the steps you can take to lower your risks and stay on top of your overall health.
Oral health problems related to diabetes are:
- gum disease
- thrush (a fungal infection)
- slower healing after surgery
Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is when the tissues that hold your teeth in place become irritated and inflamed. If the disease is severe, it can destroy tissue and bone. This can lead to tooth loss. Gum disease is often more frequent and more severe in older adults with diabetes, especially if they smoke.
People with diabetes who have poor blood sugar control are more likely to lose teeth than those who have good control. Research says that treating gum disease may help improve blood sugar control. To help prevent gum disease, eat a well-balanced diet, practice good oral care at home and see your dentist regularly for checkups.
People with gum disease may not see any symptoms. See your dentist immediately if you notice:
- gums that bleed easily
- puffy, swollen gums
- gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- pus between the teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
- constant bad breath or bad taste
- permanent teeth that are loose or separating from other teeth
- a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- a change in the fit of partial dentures
Thrush is a fungal infection that happens more often in people with diabetes. It is also more common for people who wear dentures. Possible signs and symptoms include:
- White or red patches in your mouth that may be sore and may turn into open sores
- A painful, burning sensation that affects your tongue, can dull your sense of taste and make it hard to swallow
Good oral health habits, like brushing and cleaning between your teeth daily, can help you avoid problems with thrush. If needed, your dentist can prescribe medicine to treat it.
If you have diabetes, it may take your body longer to heal after dental work. This includes having a tooth pulled or any other oral surgery. It is important to maintain your blood sugar level to help the injury heal as quickly as possible. Be sure your dentist knows that you have diabetes when planning your treatment.
Daily Oral Care Can Prevent Problems
People with diabetes can be more prone to gum disease. But, if you are careful about keeping your teeth clean, you are less likely to have tooth decay, gum disease and other oral infections. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes each time. This will remove the sticky film of bacteria on teeth that can lead to gum disease. Also, clean once a day between your teeth with floss or another between-the-teeth cleaner.
Choose toothpaste, a toothbrush and other oral care products that show the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. This means that the product has met ADA standards for safety and effectiveness.
Your dentist may suggest using a special mouthrinse or toothpaste to control gum inflammation. He or she also may recommend rinsing with a fluoride mouthrinse or applying fluoride at home or in the dental office to help prevent tooth decay.
Getting regular dental exams, professional teeth cleanings and gum disease screenings is important. They can help your dentist spot and treat dental problems early and can help manage the effects of diabetes on your oral health.
Before dental treatment, be sure to let your dentist know:
- that you have diabetes
- about your blood sugar level
- any recent problems with infections
- any changes in your medical history
- the names of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are taking and any changes in the medications you use
- your A1C levels
Keep in Mind:
- Bring your glucometer with you so that you can monitor your glucose levels as needed.
- Eat before you go to the dentist so that your blood sugar level is in a normal range and your diabetes medicine is already in your system. If you take insulin, try to schedule a morning visit after you have eaten breakfast.
- If you need some type of dental surgery, it may affect what you can eat. Your dentist may talk to your physician about the best way for you to control your diabetes.
- If you notice signs and symptoms of oral health problems, contact the dental office as soon as possible.
- Practice good oral care at home, follow your physician’s instructions for foods and medicines and schedule regular dental checkups for a healthy smile.