The oral health impact of diabetes

Posted on October 25, 2021 in General oral health


young mixed male in blue shirt with glasses smilingYou likely know someone living with diabetes — about 1 in 8 Illinois adults1 have been diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening disease, a number that has doubled in the past 15 years. Those with diabetes are at greater risk for oral health issues such as gum disease, cavities and tooth loss.

This November during American Diabetes Month, Delta Dental of Illinois is partnering with the American Diabetes Association to bring awareness to the growing prevalence of diabetes, and the oral and overall health risks associated with the disease.

Diabetes continues to be a major health crisis. About 1.3 million Illinoisans2 have diabetes and another 2 in 5 Illinoisans have prediabetes where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, increasing the likelihood of developing diabetes without lifestyle changes.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of both oral health issues and serious overall health complications. It’s a chronic disease that is the seventh-leading cause of death in Illinois.

Diabetes increases health risks

Gum disease is the most common oral health issue, affecting more than 1 in 5 people with diabetes.3 Other oral health conditions — ranging from cavities to dry mouth, tooth loss, burning mouth syndrome and oral infections, such as thrush — all become more likely with diabetes.

Diabetes can have other uncomfortable oral health effects, too. It can create a bad taste in your mouth and cause problems tasting food. It can also keep sores and cuts in your mouth from healing as quickly as they should.

Effects of diabetes go beyond the mouth. The disease has been linked with conditions ranging from heart disease and stroke to nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, foot damage, skin conditions, hearing impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.4 People with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and serious complications when infected with a virus, including COVID-19.5

Preventive dental visits are key

Routine preventive dental visits are crucial for not only keeping up with your oral health, but helping detect diseases such as diabetes, which can show early signs in the mouth. Dentists can recommend a daily plan to take care of your oral health at home, and provide treatment for gum disease and other oral health issues to help manage diabetes.

Taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle can lower blood sugar, which can help prevent or manage diabetes. Healthy habits include:

  • Maintaining a balanced, low-sugar diet.
  • Drinking plenty of water.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day.
  • Getting regular preventive care, including dental exams.
  • Avoiding tobacco and drinking alcohol in moderation.

People with diabetes may need to see the dentist more frequently for preventive care. Some dental plans provide additional cleanings for those with specific health conditions. Learn about the Delta Dental of Illinois Enhanced Benefits Program at deltadentalil.com/resources/ebp/. You can also check your dental plan details or ask your dentist if you qualify.

It also is important to complete any treatments your dentist recommends. For more tips on protecting your oral and overall health, visit deltadentalil.com/oral-health.

1 Illinois Department of Public Health, https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes

2 Illinois Department of Public Health, http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes

3 American Dental Association, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diabetes

4 Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444#:

5 American Diabetes Association, https://www.diabetes.org/coronavirus-covid-19/how-coronavirus-impacts-people-with-diabetes