How Diabetes and Oral Health Are Related


If you’re diabetic, you have to pay a little extra attention to your dental health.

Diabetics are twice as susceptible to gum disease, and oral diseases and infections can even contribute to the progression of diabetes. They can also have an impact on your overall health, as they can for any person.

Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes can contribute to numerous oral health issues. These can include:

Gum Disease 

Diabetes can cause gingivitis and periodontitis, because it causes blood vessels to thicken, slowing blood flow. This prevents nutrients from reaching gum tissue, and it can also slow the removal of irritants and toxins, reducing the body’s ability to fight infection. As a result, gum diseases can occur more frequently, progress more rapidly, and be harder to control in diabetic patients.

Slower Healing

Diabetes slows the healing of wounds, and this is particularly true of mouth injuries, whether accidental or from dental procedures or surgery. Slow healing can mean a higher risk of infection, especially in the mouth, which is naturally full of bacteria.

Dry Mouth

Diabetes reduces saliva production, which can contribute to dry mouth. Because your saliva naturally cleans your mouth and washes away bacteria and debris, dry mouth can cause tooth decay, soreness, ulcers, and infection—conditions that diabetes also can make worse.

Fungal Infections

Thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth, typically occurs in babies or in adults whose immune systems have been compromised. Diabetics are also prone to thrush infections because the yeast that causes it feeds on higher sugar levels in saliva. Antibiotics that diabetic people may be using to fight other infections can also contribute to thrush, which creates a burning, aching sensation and/or bleeding of the tongue and gums.

If you smoke, then you’re even more at risk for developing oral health problems.  Smoking also irritates gums and may be a contributing factor in further reducing blood flow. If you’re diabetic, stopping smoking is one of the best health moves you can make.

Warning Signs For Diabetics

If you’re diabetic, it pays to notice warning signs of problems with your oral health and be prepared to take action quickly, so small problems don’t become major ones. Here are some things to look for:

  • Gums that are red and swollen
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Loose teeth
  • Gums that are pulling away from teeth
  • Pus that shows up along the gumline
  • Changes in the way that dentures fit

Should symptoms like these occur, contact your dentist or Dr. Wes right away.

Preventing Oral Problems While Living with Diabetes

Living with diabetes is a challenge, and requires planning and extra care. The simple things matter. Regular brushing and flossing makes a big difference, along with using toothpaste that is formulated for gum health. So does using an antibacterial mouth rinse to reduce irritation and the potential for infection.

Diabetics also have to be fastidious about dental checkups. Your dentist and your doctor are important allies in your fight against the disease. Making sure they communicate with each other (and with you) can be a significant advantage in avoiding health problems.

In fact, your dentist may be able to spot changes in your mouth that signal danger—and be able to share these with your doctor for preventative action.

So good daily oral hygiene, coupled with regular dental checkups, is a diabetic’s best defense.

Want to know taking care of your teeth while managing your diabetes? Get in touch with us today!

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