Keeping Your Teeth Healthy When You Have Diabetes

by Allison Karp, Education Coordinator

While anyone can suffer from tooth and gum problems, people who have diabetes tend to be more prone to problems in this area than most. More often than not, tooth and gum problems are caused by a build up of plaque, which can be exasperated by high blood glucose. People who have diabetes therefore can have serious problems in the mouth area if they don’t monitor their blood glucose levels.

Diabetes can cause changes in the mouth such as a thickening of blood vessels. Excessive sugars can lead to bacteria growth. This may lead to more frequent and serious oral infections such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Generally speaking, an individual will know that they have a problem with gum disease if their gums are sore or red and especially if the gums are bleeding. You may see your gums begin to pull away from your teeth, thus making the teeth appear slightly longer.

People with diabetes can also experience:

  • dry mouth, which may lead to ulcers, infections and tooth decay

  • slow healing of sores in the mouth

  • fungal infections of the mouth, including thrush

If you are a smoker, the first thing you should do when faced with tooth and gum problems is to quit smoking. Smoking slows blood flow to the gums and leads to slower healing in that area. Smokers may be 20 times more susceptible to periodontitis and other gum diseases and infections.

If you stick to a strict routine of mouth care, many problems can be avoided altogether. When you visit your dentist, be sure to tell her about your diabetes status and any medications you are currently taking.

Your dentist will likely advise that you use dental-floss regularly -- at least once a day, in fact, while twice a day is better. Using dental-floss effectively can be highly beneficial for preventing the build-up of plaque on the teeth. Should plaque be allowed to build up it can harden and begin to grow underneath the gums. Flossing should be done by using a ‘sawing’ motion while bringing the floss between each tooth. Scraping from top to bottom should be repeated several times.

In addition, teeth should be brushed as often as possible, preferably with good-quality anti-plaque toothpaste. Teeth should be brushed after every meal. It is recommended that a soft brush is used and that, using a circular motion, the brush is turned directly against the gum line. Moreover, it is vital that the teeth are brushed at the front, back and at the top.

If you have false teeth or dental implants, it is equally vital that they are kept as clean as is possible. Indeed, it is often advisable in such cases that the cleaning work be carried out by a trained specialist. Your dentist will be able to clean your teeth and gums properly (at least twice a year) while giving you individual advice on how to keep your mouth area healthy. The dentist can also advise on the kind of foods and drinks that can cause damage to teeth and gums in addition to giving advice on keeping blood glucose levels normal.


“Dental Care and Diabetes” http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-health-dental-care-diabetes

“Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy” http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/complications_teeth/

“Dental Considerations for the Treatment of Patients with Diabetes,” Journal of the American Dental Association http://jada.ada.org/content/134/suppl_1/24S.abstract

“Diabetes and Oral Health Problems” http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Medical-Conditions/Diabetes-And-Other-Endocrine-Disorders/article/Diabetes-and-Oral-Health-Problems.cvsp




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