Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes affects millions of Americans each year and it can add significant risk to your oral health.

  • If you have diabetes, make sure you take care of your mouth. People with diabetes are at risk for mouth infections, including periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease damages the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place and may lead to chewing difficulties and tooth loss.
  • People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, most likely because diabetics are more susceptible to infections. People who don’t have their diabetes under control are especially at risk.
  • This relationship actually goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.
  • Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar. This puts diabetics at a higher risk for diabetic complications. Thus, diabetics who have periodontal disease should be treated to eliminate the periodontal infection.
  • Diabetes can also cause dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush. Dry mouth occurs when there is not enough saliva. Diabetes may also cause the glucose (sugar) level in your saliva to increase. Together, these problems may lead to thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth.
  • By controlling your blood glucose, brushing and flossing your teeth daily and visiting a dentist regularly, you can help prevent periodontal disease. If your diabetes is not under control, you are more likely to develop problems in your mouth.
  • Check your mouth regularly for any problems. Some people notice that their gums bleed when they brush and floss. Others notice dryness, soreness, white patches or a bad taste in their mouth. If you notice any of these, visit a dentist.