Shield Your Smile From Diabetes Related Risk

Posted on November 3, 2023 in General oral health

Man and woman having coffee

People with diabetes know that regulating their blood sugar is important for managing their overall health. But it also helps protect their smile, because people with diabetes have an increased risk for oral health issues like gum disease (periodontitis) and dry mouth.

What’s the link between diabetes and gum disease?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that influences how the body converts sugar into energy. As a result, diabetes that isn’t properly managed can lead to higher levels of sugar in the blood — which means higher levels of sugar in saliva, too.

More sugar in a person’s saliva is harmful because it will feed decay-causing mouth bacteria and increase the risk of cavities. Also, left unaddressed, the plaque will harden into tartar which can cause gum disease, tooth loss, and other oral health problems.

For people with diabetes, this can create a dangerous cycle:

  • Diabetes makes gum disease more likely.
  • Inflammation from gum disease can cause blood sugar to rise, making it more difficult to manage diabetes.

Tell your dentist if you have diabetes so they know you have a higher risk of gum disease and because it may influence any medications you are prescribed.

Recognizing gum disease

Whether you have diabetes or not, you should see your dentist regularly – and as soon as possible if you notice symptoms of gum disease, such as:

  • Bad breath that won’t go away
  • Tender, red, or swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed easily

Beyond gum disease: Other areas of increased risk

Gum disease is a common risk to watch for, but diabetes can also make someone more likely to develop other oral health conditions.

  • Dry mouth: Reduced saliva, or dry mouth, is a side effect of unmanaged diabetes. This can lead to bad breath, sore gums, and, potentially, infections and tooth decay.
  • Thrush: People with diabetes have a lower resistance to infection. The combination of this low resistance, increased sugar in the saliva, and dry mouth can encourage thrush, a fungal infection identified by white lesions on your tongue and inner cheeks.
  • Slower recovery: Diabetes weakens white blood cells that fight infections in the mouth, which can cause any oral health issue to heal more slowly and make gum disease more severe.

Fight back with a strong oral health routine

Diabetes can increase oral health risks for some people, but combating those risks remains the same for everyone. The best way to protect teeth and gums is to maintain a regular oral health routine.

  • Brush twice a day for two minutes each time with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use gentle pressure and move your toothbrush in a circular motion as you reach the entire surface of each tooth.
  • To clean your gums, angle your toothbrush 45 degrees toward your gum line, brushing gently. 
  • Floss at least once a day. Flossing cleans plaque that your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • If you don’t do so already, cleaning your tongue daily can also offer oral health benefits.
  • Follow your physician’s instructions for daily diabetic care, which will be unique to your personal health history.

If you smoke, try to take the first step to quit. Smoking increases the risk of gum disease for everyone, but diabetics who smoke have an even higher risk for gum disease and other oral health complications.

Remain in control of your oral health

Safeguard your smile by watching out for symptoms of gum disease, maintaining a daily oral health routine, and managing your diabetes per your physician’s instructions.