7 Ways Diabetes Affects Your Teeth


Over 29 million people living in the United States have diabetes. Type I and Type II diabetes affect your body’s ability to process sugar, which in turn causes high blood sugar levels. The good news is that controlling your diabetes can help you protect your teeth and gums. Here is an overview of the oral conditions diabetes can cause or worsen.

  • Increased Risk of Gingivitis
    Gum disease is the most common oral health problem associated with diabetes. Since diabetes can lead to more sugar in your saliva, it can also cause acid-producing bacteria to multiply in your mouth. Over time, bacteria and leftover food particles can form plaque, which causes tooth decay and gum disease. Regular brushing and flossing play an important role in reversing gingivitis.
  • Development of Periodontitis
    If left untreated, gingivitis can worsen into periodontitis, which erodes the bone and tissues that support your teeth. Today, periodontal disease affects nearly 22% of people living with diabetes.  Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States. Since periodontitis is permanent, it is important to practice diligent oral hygiene and visit your dentist to manage your oral health condition.
  • Dry Mouth
    Diabetes can slow down saliva production, which contains enzymes that are essential for limiting bacterial growth. Over time, dry mouth can exacerbate tooth decay and gum disease. To treat dry mouth, drink plenty of water, and limit your caffeine intake. You may also want to talk to your physician about any medications that you may be taking that have a side effect of dry mouth.
  • Oral Thrush
    A fungal yeast infection called oral thrush is most common in people with diabetes. Since fungi feast on sugar, high blood sugar levels can lead to fungal infections in your mouth. While oral thrush usually does not cause any serious health problems, it can be unpleasant. Most often, oral thrush appears as white or red patches on your tongue and inside your cheeks.
  • Burning Mouth Syndrome
    Burning mouth syndrome is a term that describes chronic or recurrent burning sensation in your mouth. This sensation can also be accompanied by tingling, stinging, or numbness. Burning mouth syndrome has been linked to diabetes and poor glycemic control, as well as oral thrush and dry mouth.
  • Slow Wound Healing
    When you have diabetes, a number of factors can cause your wounds to heal at a slower rate. These factors include high blood sugar levels, poor circulation, immune system deficiency, and infection. If your wounds are not properly monitored, they can progress into a more serious complication. See your doctor or dentist if you notice any swelling, bleeding, or persistent pain in your mouth.
  • Bad Breath
    Diabetes raises your glucose levels, encourages bacterial growth, and increases your risk of inflammation and infection. As a result, diabetes can cause periodontal disease, which may also lead to bad breath. While brushing, flossing your teeth, and rinsing your mouth will temporarily cover up bad breath, it will not cure it. To manage bad breath, maintain good oral hygiene, avoid dry mouth, adjust your diet, and schedule regular dental checkups.

How to prevent diabetes-related oral problems
To prevent damage to your teeth and gums, take an active role in managing your Type I or Type II diabetes. The higher your blood sugar level, the higher your risk is for developing these seven oral complications. In addition, make a commitment to maintaining a good oral hygiene routine by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, and scheduling regular dental visits. By actively managing your diabetes and dental care, you will be rewarded with healthy teeth and gums.

How can your dentist help?

Regular dental visits and professional dental cleanings play an important role in managing your diabetes. Research has shown that treating gum disease can help patients with diabetes control their blood sugar.  In fact, active gum disease is comparable to having an open wound the size of the palm of your hand.  This active infection makes it nearly impossible to manage normal blood sugar levels with diet and medication because your body is fighting the infection in your mouth.  The first sign of a gum infection is gums that bleed when you brush or floss. If you have diabetes, make sure you inform your dentist during your routine visit and advise your dentist if you have noticed bleeding while flossing. If you need to schedule an appointment, please give us a call.