Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes and Oral Health

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause oral health problems affecting the teeth and gums.

A healthy mouth is important for everyone, but the high blood sugar in diabetes may make it more difficult to keep the mouth healthy. It is vital to maintain good oral hygiene practice by brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily as well as rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash.

A study in Indian population concluded a higher percentage (11% higher) of population with diabetes suffered from periodontitis (a disease of the gum – gums are surrounding tissues of the teeth) as compared to those without diabetes. People with diabetes were found to have significantly lower percentage of healthy teeth as compared to those without.

How are diabetes and gum disease related?

The presence of high blood sugar from diabetes increases the sugars in the saliva around the teeth and under the gums. This promotes the growth of harmful germs and plaque. Plaque irritates the gums increasing the risk gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. The symptoms of gum disease are:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Redness on the gums
  • Swelling near the gums
  • Gums pulling away from the teeth
  • Sensitive or loose teeth
  • Changes in the feeling of food bites
  • Dentures not fitting right
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth

Untreated gum disease may lead to a severe disease state, from inflamed gums to tooth loss.

What are the other oral health problems occurring due to diabetes?

A diabetic person may not be able to fight infections efficiently and the increased blood sugar levels makes a more conducive atmosphere for the bacteria and germs to grow in the mouth. In addition to gum disease, diabetes also increases the risk of:
  • Dental cavities
  • Dry mouth (a lack of saliva) that may cause sores, ulcers, and infections
  • Oral thrush (a fungal infection causing white patches in the mouth, often painful)
    • more common if a person has dentures or smokes
    • also makes it harder to swallow food
  • Burning mouth syndrome (a burning feeling inside the mouth)
  • Taste changes in food and beverages

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

If a person observes any signs and symptoms discussed above, they should let their dentist know the following –

  • Inform the dentist about the diabetes, it’s duration and if any diabetes-related problems that may have occurred
  • Keeping the dentist informed about any changes or increase in blood glucose levels
  • Knowing how often the person should visit for regular cleanings and checkups
  • Srictly following the dentist’s advice on how to prevent and treat mouth problems from diabetes

How can one maintain a healthy mouth?

The following tips may help in maintaining good oral health:

  • Regular dental visits are important to prevent problems. Keeping regular visits for professional cleanings, X-rays, and checkups may helps in prevention of gum disease or from increasing it to serious proportions.
  • Follow the diabetes care schedule advised by the doctor.
  • Brush teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss teeth at least once a day.
  • Inform the dentist if a person is diabetic
  • Visit the dentist in case if the gums are red, swollen, or bleed easily as these may be signs of gum disease. Other signs include dry mouth, loose teeth, or mouth pain.
  • Quit smoking as smoking increases the risk of gum disease and may worsen diabetes.


  1. Diabetes and Oral Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 2024.
  2. Diabetes, Gum Disease, & Other Dental Problems. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). January 2024.
  3. Diabetes and Mouth Problems: What You Should Know. WebMD. January 2024.

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