Dental Tips for People Living with Diabetes

Dr. Rochon, what is the relationship between diabetes and your mouth?

People living with diabetes are at risk for mouth infections, especially gum disease. Gum disease can damage the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place and may lead to painful chewing problems. Some people with serious gum disease lose their teeth. And it’s a catch 22. Gum disease may also make it hard to control your blood sugar.

Let me explain. Diabetes may cause the sugar level in your saliva to increase. High sugar in your saliva helps harmful bacteria grow. These bacteria combine with food to form plaque. Some types of plaque cause tooth decay or cavities. Other types of plaque cause gum disease and bad breath.

Plaque that is not removed by regular brushing and flossing, hardens over time into tartar and collects above your gum line. Tartar makes it more difficult to brush and clean between your teeth. Your gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to gum disease . In turn, having gum disease can make your blood sugar hard to control. Conversely, gum disease can be more severe and take longer to heal if you have diabetes.


Dr. Rochon, what are some symptoms diabetics should be aware of in their mouth?

There could be problems in your mouth if you have sores that don’t heal, cavities, a burning sensation in your mouth, loose teeth, pain when chewing, a changed sense of taste or a bad taste in your mouth, or bad breath that doesn’t go away when you brush your teeth. Other problems diabetes can cause are dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush.


Does smoking have any effect on the mouth?

Smoking makes problems with your mouth worse. Smoking and diabetes are a dangerous mix. Smoking raises your risk for many diabetes problems. If you quit smoking, you will lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, kidney disease, and amputation, your cholesterol and blood pressure levels might improve, and your blood circulation will improve.


How will I know if I have mouth problems from diabetes?

Some of the first signs of gum disease are swollen, tender, or bleeding gums. Sometimes you won’t have any signs of gum disease. You may not know you have it until you have serious damage. Your best defence is to see your dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and checkup. If your diabetes is not under control, you are more likely to develop problems in your mouth.

The good news is you can keep your teeth and gums healthy. By controlling your blood glucose, brushing and flossing every day, and visiting a dentist regularly, you can help prevent serious problems in your mouth and save some money! Your style begins with your smile!