Diabetes can affect the health of your mouth. Research has shown that people with poor diabetes control are more likely to develop problems in the mouth. (1)
Some of the very first symptoms of diabetes, such as dry mouth, may be detected by your dentist well before diabetes is diagnosed by your doctor, so regular dental check-ups are very important.
Diabetics are at greater risk of developing gum disease (2) because they are more prone to infections and are less able to break down sugar levels that result in greater acid levels in the mouth. Diabetics also suffer delayed wound healing, which has implications for wounds or injuries inside the mouth.
Gum disease is essentially caused by plaque. Unless proper brushing of the teeth occurs, bacteria and food will stay on the teeth to form plaque which causes inflamed, swollen gums. This eventually leads to bone loss around the teeth.
Diabetics need to be especially aware of the following signs of gum disease:
Red, swollen or tender gums
Bleeding gums when brushing, flossing or eating
Persistent bad breath and bad taste in the mouth
Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth
Tooth sensitivity, food catching between teeth or loose teeth
Researchers have now confirmed that people with poor diabetes control are 2 times more likely to do develop periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease, compared to people who do not have diabetes. (1) On the other hand, people with good diabetes control are not at increased risk for developing periodontitis.
Top tips for keeping your gums healthy are:
Have a diet that involves consuming only a moderate amount of sugary foods
Brush twice a day
Floss at least once a day
See your dentist for a check-up and professional clean twice a year
Warning signs of diabetes:
Constant hunger or thirst
Excessive production of urine
Weight loss without trying
If you are concerned about possible symptoms of diabetes, it is important to see your doctor for tests to check whether you may have diabetes.
(1) Mealey BL, Ocampo GL. Diabetes mellitus and periodontal disease. Periodontol 2000 2007;44:127-153.