How Diabetes Affects Your Oral Health (+5 Ways to Prevent It!)

You don't have to brush your teeth, just the ones you want to keep!


Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the mouth that affects the gingiva (gums), teeth, and the supporting bone. It is identified as the 6th complication of diabetes. It usually starts with gingivitis, and patients present with swelling and redness in the gums. Periodontitis is the second stage and is characterized by swelling, redness, and bleeding from the gums, increased spacing between teeth, loose teeth, and exposure of root surfaces due to loss of bone around the teeth.

shutterstock_560568688Data suggests that up to 50% of adults in the United States suffer from some degree of periodontitis and is significantly higher in diabetics. Diabetics with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and poor blood glucose control have an increased risk of periodontitis and a greater rate of gingival bleeding.  New evidence has also found that not only are diabetics more susceptible to gum disease, serious gum disease may also affect the blood glucose control leading to the progression of diabetes.

Glucose is present in the saliva. When your blood glucose is not controlled, the high glucose levels from your saliva can help harmful bacteria grow. Once combined with food, it forms a soft and sticky film called plaque and can cause tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

To prevent dental problems associated with diabetes, you should:

  1. Control your blood glucose levels.
  2. Take good care of your gums, teeth: brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily.
  3. Ask your dentist for regular checkups every six months, and tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
  4. Avoid smoking as it increases your risk of gum disease.
  5. Remove and clean dentures daily if you wear them.

The warning signs to look out for are:

  1. Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing your teeth.
  2. Red, swollen or tender gums.
  3. Gums that have fallen away from teeth leading to root showing, or teeth may appear to be longer.
  4. Pus between the teeth and gums, you can check this by pressing on your gums.
  5. Bad breath.
  6. Permanent teeth becoming loose or increasing space between your teeth.
  7. Changes in the way your teeth fit when you try to bite down.
  8. Changes with the fit of your dentures or bridges.

It is important to try to prevent dental problems in diabetics as gum disease can be more severe and may take longer to heal. As mentioned, it also causes your blood glucose to be hard to control.


  • Diabetes and oral health problems. American Diabetes Association. URL Link. Accessed 1/29/2017.
  • Warning signs. American Diabetes Association. URL Link. Accessed 1/29/2017.


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