Gum Disease and Diabetes: Things To Know

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Diabetes is a chronic condition when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin properly, resulting in high blood sugar levels. When you have diabetes, it can have adverse effects on your overall health, including your oral health. For instance, periodontal disease, which refers to infections of the gums and bones holding teeth in place, can occur when one is diabetic.

Changes caused by diabetes increase a person’s risk for gum disease. Learn what these changes are, the link between gum disease and diabetes, and ways to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems.

How Diabetes Affects Your Oral Health

While diabetes takes its toll on your whole body, it also increases your risk of developing dental diseases or other symptoms in your mouth, which include:

Dry Mouth

Diabetes changes your saliva, the fluid essential for lubricating the mouth, cleaning away food debris and harmful bacteria, protecting tissues, neutralizing acids, and preventing tooth decay. Uncontrolled diabetes lowers salivary gland production and causes the saliva to have more glucose.

Diabetes medications and changes in the saliva caused by diabetes lead to a dry mouth, encouraging bacterial growth and plaque buildup near the gum line and turning into tartar if not removed. Tartar removal by your dentist is essential; otherwise, it can lead to periodontal disease.


Diabetes also affects your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections. A yeast infection known as thrush is common in diabetic patients. The yeast thrives on higher sugar levels in your saliva, looking like a white coating on your tongue and your cheeks. Patients who wear dentures are more likely to have thrush, which can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Consult your dentist if you suspect you have thrush or another mouth infection.

Change in Taste

Having diabetes will change the way food tastes. Frustrating as this may be, take this chance to try new tastes, textures, and spices to enhance your favorite foods. However, don’t add too much sugar; it will affect your diet and cause more cavities. Consult your dentist if you notice a persistent bad taste in your mouth.

Slow Wound Healing

Uncontrolled diabetes prevents injuries from healing quickly and properly. This includes any sores in your mouth or gum injuries. See your dentist if you feel something isn’t healing in your mouth as it should.

Increased Glucose in Saliva

Your saliva may also contain more glucose if you have diabetes. This will feed bacteria in your mouth that combine with other food debris to become plaque, the sticky film coating your teeth that can cause cavities if not removed. It can accumulate near your gum line and harden into tartar, causing gum disease.

Gum Disease and Diabetes

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), gum disease and diabetes have a two-way relationship. High blood sugar increases the risk of gum disease; meanwhile, gum disease makes blood sugar more difficult to manage because of the increased risk of infection and decreased ability to fight bacteria, resulting in increased blood sugar levels.

Diabetes also causes blood vessels to thicken, causing a decrease in the flow of nutrients and waste from the body’s tissues. This reduced blood flow can cause bone and gum weakness, putting diabetic patients at risk of infection.

The ADA also states that gum disease affects almost 22% of diabetic patients. Some sources suggest that nearly a quarter of Americans with diabetes over 50 will experience severe tooth loss.

Aside from uncontrolled diabetes, other causes of gum disease include poor oral hygiene, smoking, and insufficient nutrients. Some symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding when brushing and or flossing
  • Strange taste in the mouth
  • Red, swollen, or sore gums
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Pus between gums and teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Changes in jaw and bite alignment
  • Dentures that no longer fit
  • Loose teeth

These symptoms may appear similar to other conditions. Consult your dentist if you experience these symptoms.

Gum Disease Treatment Options

Your symptoms, age, overall health, and the severity of the condition will all play a role in determining your treatment options. Gum disease treatment may include:

  • Scaling and Root Planing – Dentists can remove plaque and tartar beneath your gums. This procedure also smooths out your teeth’s surface, preventing any plaque from attaching to them and allowing the gums to reattach to the teeth.
  • Medicine – Your dentist may prescribe medications or place antibiotics in your periodontal pockets.
  • Surgery – Your dentist will remove infected tissue from the gums and replace it with healthy tissue if the disease has advanced. There are many types of surgery: pocket reduction, periodontal reduction, soft tissue transplant, crown lengthening, and soft tissue graft.

Oral Care for Diabetic Patients

Caring for your gums and teeth will help you prevent or slow down the progression of dental problems. Furthermore, a healthier mouth will help you manage your diabetes better, helping you prevent most diabetes-related complications.

If you’re a diabetes patient, here are some of the things you can do to keep gum diseases at bay:

Keep your blood sugar under control.

Maintain your target range for blood glucose levels by taking your medications, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and exercising regularly. You are less likely to get gum disease and other dental problems if you have better control of your sugar levels.

Maintain a good oral regimen.

Brush your teeth twice daily for approximately two minutes using fluoride toothpaste. You should also floss at least once a day using dental floss, interdental brushes, or oral irrigators.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing too hard. Otherwise, you may irritate your gums. You should also consider an electric toothbrush if you have arthritis or other issues that make brushing difficult. Replace their heads at least once every three months, just as you would replace a regular toothbrush.

Eat a healthy and balanced diet.

Always follow the meal plan your doctor or dietitian created for you. Keep a healthy diet that restricts beverages and snacks with added sugar.

Stop smoking.

Smoking increases your risk of developing diabetes complications like gum disease and eventual loss of teeth. If you’re a smoker, ask your doctor about options to help you quit.

Visit your dentist regularly.

Get professional cleanings, X-rays, and checkups at least twice a year, and always remind your dentist that you have diabetes. Ask your dentist how to care for your teeth at home and what products and tools you should use. They can also recommend a customized cleaning regimen that suits your needs.

Key Takeaway

Gum disease is more common in people with diabetes. High blood sugar levels can adversely affect oral health and may increase the likelihood of dental problems like tooth loss and gum disease.

Diabetes and gum disease have a bidirectional relationship; gum disease makes blood sugar more difficult to manage, and high blood sugar levels increase the risk of gum disease. Diabetic patients can reduce the risk of gum disease by maintaining a healthy blood sugar level, flossing and brushing daily, and going to regular dental appointments.

Stay healthy with Century Dental.

Our dentist near Treasure Island, FL, provides preventive care services to keep your teeth and gums in their best shape. Proper dental care is part of diabetes management. Call us today for any concerns and questions you have about your teeth.

Picture of Dr. Abdullah M. Allawnha

Dr. Abdullah M. Allawnha

Dr. Allawnha, born in New Orleans and raised in Windsor, Canada, earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Windsor. He worked as an ER nurse in Detroit, Michigan, before moving to Morgantown, West Virginia, to become a dentist. He completed his Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from West Virginia University School of Dentistry while still working as a nurse until he graduated.

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