Good oral health is important for everyone, but it becomes even more vital if you are diabetic. Studies have found a direct association between diabetes and a person’s oral health status.
Diabetes can lead to changes in the oral cavity giving rise to issues such as gum-related problems like gingival hyperplasia and periodontitis (pyorrhea).
Other diabetes-related oral conditions include dental decay, candidiasis, glossodynia (burning mouth syndrome), bad breath and xerostomia (dry mouth).
Untreated oral issues can result in tooth loss. Conversely, the presence of gum disease can make it harder for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association reports that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes, adding serious gum disease to the list of health complications associated with diabetes (1).
An estimated 30.3 million people of all ages—or 9.4 percent of the U.S. population—had diabetes in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2).
As the number of people diagnosed with diabetes is increasing day by day, it is important that people become aware of oral care and health complications associated with it.
A 2011 study published in the British Dental Journal reports that training and advice for both health care professionals and patients concerning the importance of good oral health in patients with diabetes is needed (3).
A study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2012 reports that oral health education and regular follow-up of dental problems of diabetic patients is much needed (4).
Another study published in 2013 in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences highlights a need for physicians who treat diabetics to be educated about the various oral manifestations of diabetes, so problems can be diagnosed early and referrals to oral health specialists are made timely (5).
How Your Blood Sugar Level Affects Your Oral Health
Diabetes can affect your body’s ability to fight off bacteria. A high blood glucose level helps bacteria grow inside the mouth, which in turn can cause an infection. An infection can lead to red, sore and swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth.
Plus, diabetes can weaken your mouth’s germ-fighting powers. It can also cause loss of moisture in the mouth, which can result in pain, sores, infections and cavities.
Diabetes also is associated with an increased risk for thrush, a type of fungal infection. High glucose in the saliva, poor resistance to infection and dry mouth (low saliva levels) can contribute to oral thrush.
Tips to Prevent Oral Problems if You Have Diabetes
To prevent diabetes-related oral complications, the first step you need to take is to maintain optimal control over your blood sugar levels. You can control your blood sugar levels with diet, exercise, oral medications or insulin.
Always keep an eye on your blood sugar and if the sugar level is persistently high, contact your doctor.
Other tips include:
- Maintain good oral hygiene through regular brushing and flossing. You must brush your teeth properly twice daily with a good quality toothbrush.
- Practice oil pulling with extra-virgin coconut oil to curb the growth of bacteria inside the mouth.
- To help prevent dental decay, reduce the frequency of eating sugary snacks and drinking carbonated beverages.
- Water is the only drink that you should take to bed at night.
- If you wear dentures, remove and clean your dentures daily. Do not sleep with them in your mouth.
- Use a mouthwash that is alcohol-free.
- Prevent dry mouth by drink plenty of water and chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
- Do not smoke, as it can lead to dry mouth and increase your risk of infections.
- Never undergo a dental procedure if your blood sugar is not under control. High blood sugar can increase your risk for post-procedure infection.
- Check your mouth for abnormalities on a regular basis. Check for areas of dryness or white patches in your mouth as well as gum swelling and bleeding.
- See a dentist twice a year. However, if you notice any warning signs for gum disease, seek immediate dental care.
- Diabetes and Oral Health Problems. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/diabetes-and-oral-health.html.
- National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf.
- Oral health awareness in adult patients with diabetes: a questionnaire study. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/sj.bdj.2011.769. Published September 23, 2011.
- Diabetes and Oral Health: A Case-control Study. International Journal of Preventive Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506093/. Published November 2012.
- Oral Health and Type 2 Diabetes. The American journal of the medical sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3623289/. Published April 2013.