It’s no secret that diabetes affects nearly every area of the body. Teeth and gums are no exception. In fact, a study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that one in five people with severe gum disease had undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.  What does this mean? It means that diabetes can fly under the radar causing a slew of problems, including ones that wreak havoc in your mouth.


The best way to combat a problem before it happens is with knowledge. Here the NIDDK gives further in-depth details of dental health management.


The Risks

  • Gum disease (gingivitis): disease occurs when plaque forms along the gum line which can eventually form into hardened tartar. This will cause the gums to pull away from the teeth which may cause swollen gums and the possibility of infection.
  • Cavities: bacteria that causes cavities thrives in an environment with excess sugar (such as when blood glucose is elevated)
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia): a new study summarized here concludes that saliva flow rate is diminished in those with type 2 diabetes, particularly when uncontrolled.
  • Thrush: a type of infection that can be painful and causing burning in the mouth can occur in uncontrolled diabetes.


The Right Steps

  • Daily:
    • Assess teeth and gums, feel for any sore spots or sensitive areas, check color of gums and tongue and look for signs of irritation, look for signs of bacteria or yeast overgrowth such as white spots on the tongue
    • Brush at least twice per day using small, circular motions but using caution to not brush too harshly on the gum line. Using a fluoride toothpaste is recommended to help keep teeth from decaying
    • Floss at least once per day being sure to use a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth
    • Another option is a water flosser for cleaning in between teeth as some studies have shown this type of device to be even more effective at combating gingivitis. Ask your dentist if this may be the right tool for you.
    • If you wear dentures, be sure to take them out and after each meal for cleaning and remove them at night
    • Check your blood glucose daily as this helps you get a window of what may be going on in your body that you may not even see. If your blood glucose is elevated, it’s important to get to the culprit and manage your numbers.
  • Every two-three months (or sooner as needed)
    • Change out your toothbrush or toothbrush head if using an electric toothbrush
  • Every 6 months (or sooner as recommended by your dentist)
    • Schedule a cleaning with your dentist *be sure this dentist knows you have diabetes
    • Get your denture fit checked and your gum health assessed


Ultimately, your own personal dental regimen is a conversation to have with your dentist. However, taking the right steps now to care for your teeth and gums will pay off immensely in the management of your dental health and diabetes.