Diabetes is a condition that affects your body’s ability to use glucose (sugar) as a source of energy. High blood sugar levels can have negative effects on many parts of your body, including your mouth. People with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums, such as cavities, gum disease, dry mouth, infections and tooth loss12. These oral health problems can also make your diabetes harder to manage and increase your risk of other complications, such as heart disease and kidney disease32.
How does diabetes affect your mouth?
Diabetes can affect your mouth in several ways:
- Saliva production: Diabetes and some medicines used to treat diabetes can reduce the amount of saliva (fluid) that keeps your mouth moist. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by washing away food particles, preventing bacteria from growing, and fighting the acids produced by bacteria. Saliva also has minerals that help protect your mouth tissues and fight tooth decay. When you have less saliva, you are more likely to have a dry mouth, cavities, gum disease, and infections12.
- Glucose level: Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in your blood. This glucose can also build up in your saliva. Glucose can feed harmful bacteria that combine with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque, which causes cavities. If you don’t remove plaque, it can also harden into a deposit called tartar, which can cause gum disease. Untreated, these mouth problems can lead to tooth loss12.
- Immune system: Diabetes can weaken your white blood cells, which are your body’s main defense against bacterial infections in your mouth3. This can make you more prone to gum disease, which can affect your blood sugar levels and increase your risk of type 2 and gestational diabetes3. Infections in your mouth can also take longer to heal if you have diabetes1.
What are the signs and symptoms of oral health problems from diabetes?
Some of the signs and symptoms of oral health problems from diabetes are:
- Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums
- Loose or sensitive teeth
- Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- Dry mouth or a burning sensation in your mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- White patches or sores in your mouth
- Changes in the fit of your dentures or partials
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, you should see your dentist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent more serious problems and complications.
How can you prevent and treat oral health problems from diabetes?
The best way to prevent and treat oral health problems from diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. This will help reduce the amount of glucose in your saliva and improve your immune system. You should also follow these tips to keep your mouth healthy:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss your teeth at least once a day
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings
- Tell your dentist that you have diabetes and inform them of any changes in your medications or health conditions
- Avoid smoking, which can worsen your diabetes and your oral health
- Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist
- Chew sugar-free gum or candies to stimulate saliva production
- Use a humidifier at night to prevent dry mouth
- Rinse your mouth with water or an alcohol-free mouthwash after meals and snacks
- Eat a balanced diet that is low in sugar and carbohydrates
By following these steps, you can keep your smile bright and healthy, and also improve your overall well-being.
3: The American Diabetes Association Launches Collaborative Oral Health Campaign3
1: Diabetes, Gum Disease, & Other Dental Problems – NIDDK1
2: Diabetes and Oral Health | Diabetes | CDC – Centers for Disease Control …2
4: What is the link between diabetes and gum disease? – Medical News Today4
5: Diabetes and oral health – Better Health Channel5