How does diabetes take a toll on your oral health?


Diabetes impacts your body's ability to use the blood sugar required to generate energy. Diabetes leads to several complications such as nerve damage, kidney disease, silent heart attack, and blindness. Another widespread issue that diabetic people suffer from is gum disease and other oral health issues such as periodontitis, gingivitis, and several other gum diseases. It is because of the decreased ability to fight off infection-causing bacteria. Diabetes is also highly associated with an enhanced risk of fungal infection in the mouth called oral thrush, which reduces blood supply to those areas.

If you have diabetes, your risk of getting oral problems is even higher. Although age and dental issues go hand in hand, when you have diabetes, problems start arising much faster.


Here are some of the common dental issues you can face when you have diabetes:

Gingivitis: Gum disease is the most common oral health issue in diabetes. The initial stage of gum disease is gingivitis, where bacteria causes your gums to bleed, making them sore and red. Bacteria love thriving on sugar, thereby producing tooth-destroying acid. Unregulated diabetes means your saliva will have more sugar, enhancing bacterial growth.

When more and more bacteria accumulate, they combine with the saliva and leftover foods, leading to plaque formation. Finally, it causes tooth decay and other gum diseases. With regular brushing, flossing, and mouth rinsing, you can get rid of it and stop gingivitis.


Periodontitis: When you leave gingivitis untreated, a severe kind of gum disease called periodontitis that will erode the bone and several tissues in your mouth that support your tooth, might even lose your teeth. When you do not brush and floss regularly, plaque and bacteria build up on your teeth. Slowly your gum starts pulling away from your teeth. It leads to the formation of pockets where several bacteria dig in and cause damage to your mouth. You cannot treat periodontitis by regular brushing and flossing. But you need to consult a dentist or a specialist. Many people also need gum surgery to save their teeth.


Dry mouth: When saliva production slows down, it causes dry mouth. Old age and diabetes can cause dry mouth and worsen the condition. Dry mouth is also called xerostomia. Saliva produces an enzyme that attacks bacteria, and lack of it makes bacterial growth unchecked. Dry mouth also results in bad breath,  mouth ulcers, sores, tooth decay, and gum disease.


Mouth infection:  Not only bacteria but also fungus grow in the presence of sugar. This is why a diabetic person often suffers from thrush, a kind of fungal yeast infection. Thrush causes white color and red color patches on your tongue and also on your cheeks. Sometimes they form open sores. If you wear dentures, take antibiotics, or smoke, you are more likely to get thrush. Yeast thrives when there is high sugar in your saliva, mainly in moist spots such as a loose-fitting denture.


More wound healing time: You might have noticed that wounds and other infections take a long time to heal. This is because of age and also diabetes. Your risk of getting an infection also goes up. Slower healing means it will take long to heal when something is wrong with your gums or teeth. In some cases, it gets worse rapidly. This can also be a problem when you have undergone dental surgery.


Tips to prevent oral health issues when you have diabetes

You can stop tooth and gum disease even before they set in if you follow below instructions:

  • Manage your diabetes effectively: Always monitor your blood sugar level and strictly follow your doctor's guidelines to control your sugar level. When your blood sugars are under control, you are less likely to get dental issues and gingivitis.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day: Brushing them at least twice a day is important. Make use of a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste containing fluoride. Do not go for vigorous scrubbing, which generally irritates your gum. If you have arthritis, you can use an electric brush.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day: Flossing eliminates plaque between your teeth and the gumline. Make sure you use waxed floss between the teeth to remove food particles and plaque. If you are facing difficulty manipulating the floss, use water floss as a safer option, and use a floss holder.
  • Go for regular dental visits: Dental consultations at least twice a year for cleanings, checkups, and X-rays. Ensure your dentist knows that you have diabetes. Here are four ways in which you can get the maximum out of your dental appointment:
  • Look for a dentist who knows the requirements of people having diabetes.
  • Always maintain honesty with your dentist. Your dentist must know that you have been reaching the diabetes targets as it affects how you respond to dental treatments.
  • Always remain proactive: While cleaning, ask how are my gums looking? Was there any bleeding? Is there anything more that should be done? 



A timely dental consultation is essential to prevent dental issues. Always follow your scheduled diabetes care. Go for regular dental visits for cleaning, checkups, and X-rays. Ask your dentist how frequently you should go for your dental checking. is an excellent platform where you will get access to numerous dentists for monitoring your dental health.




About the Author:

Suprithi Choudhary, M.Pharm (Pharmacology) Medical Content writer

Suprithi is a Pharma Professional working as a medical content writer and previously worked as a Research Scientist and Senior Research Analyst


  • C.M Academy
  • Attended the Panjab University- Chandigarh, Pharma post-graduate in Pharmacology

Special thanks to Dr Deepak Kulkarni, a dental surgeon with over 23 years of experience who proofread this blog. He graduated from the H.K.E's Dental College, Gulbarga, and has certifications in ACHS International Accreditation Education Plan; Advanced Rotary Endodontic - Restorative Continuum; and Leadership, Team Building and Customer Service Leadership from the Oscar Murphy International.



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