People who have diabetes know the disease can harm the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other important systems in the body. Did you know diabetes can also cause problems in your mouth?
People with diabetes have a higher chance of having periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. Periodontal disease can lead to pain, bad breath that doesn’t go away, chewing difficulties, and even tooth loss. Diabetes can also slow down healing, so it can interfere with treatment of periodontal disease.
Other problems diabetes can cause are dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth. Dry mouth happens when you do not have enough saliva—the fluid that keeps your mouth wet. Dry mouth can cause soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay. Smoking makes these problems even worse. In addition, diabetes may also cause the level of sugar (glucose) in your saliva to increase. Together, these problems may lead to thrush.
If your diabetes is not under control, you are more likely to develop problems in your mouth. In turn, having gum disease may make your blood sugar harder to control.
If you have diabetes, be sure to take time to check your mouth regularly for any problems. Sometimes people notice that their gums appear swollen and bleed when they brush and floss. Others notice dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth. All of these are reasons to visit a dentist.
Treatment depends on which problem you have. People with periodontal disease will need to receive treatment from a dentist, who may do a deep cleaning of your teeth or refer you to a periodontist for gum surgery. The dentist may also prescribe a special mouth rinse.
To treat symptoms of thrush, a dentist or doctor may prescribe a medicine to kill the fungus that causes thrush. You may also need a special solution to clean dentures.
For dry mouth, a doctor or dentist may prescribe a medicine to keep your mouth wet. See other tips for relief of symptoms of dry mouth.
Good blood glucose control is key to controlling and preventing mouth problems. People with poor blood glucose control get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled. If you have diabetes, be sure to:
- Control your blood glucose.
- Brush twice a day and floss regularly.
- Visit your dentist for routine check-ups. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
- Tell your dentist if your dentures (false teeth) do not fit right, or if your gums are sore.
- Quit smoking. Smoking makes gum disease worse. Your physician or dentist can help you quit.
- Avoiding Diabetes Complications
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how diabetes can affect many parts of the body, including your mouth.
- Diabetes and You: Healthy Teeth Matter!
Information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC on preventing dental complications from diabetes.
- MedlinePlus: Diabetes and Oral Health
The NIH National Library of Medicine's collection of links to government, professional and non-profit/voluntary organizations with information on diabetes and oral health.
- Working Together to Manage Diabetes: Tools and Strategies for Pharmacy, Podiatry, Optometry, and Dentistry
A guidebook from the NIH National Diabetes Education Program. The booklet outlines the diabetes care issues of these four professions so they can better recognize symptoms that might warrant referral, reinforce annual screening recommendations, or contribute to a proactive approach to diabetes care beyond the scope of their particular disciplines.
- Diabetes, Gum Disease, & Other Dental Problems
A publication from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) on how to maintain your mouth healthy if you have diabetes.