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Diabetes raises your chances of getting gum disease, as well as other dental problems such as dry mouth. So stay on top of mouth care. You'll prevent some of the problems diabetes can cause in your mouth -- and have a better smile!

The Diabetes-Dental Link

The sticky plaque that builds up on your teeth and under your gums is full of germs. It can cause sore, swollen, and red gums, a condition called gingivitis. This can lead to a worse problem called periodontitis, an infection of your gums and the bones that hold your teeth in place. Your gums can shrink and pull away from your teeth. Sometimes pus can fill in the pockets between your teeth. In severe cases, you may lose parts of your teeth or whole teeth. Diabetes makes gum disease more severe.

What You Can Do

Good mouth care is the best way to avoid problems. Take these steps to take care of your teeth and gums:

  • Brush at least twice a day. The American Diabetes Association advises brushing for at least 2 minutes to make sure you brush every tooth. Use a soft toothbrush with rounded bristles, which are less likely to hurt your gums. Put the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Then brush gently back and forth on all sides of your teeth. Be sure to brush the top of your tongue, too, to get rid of germs there. Use fluoride toothpaste to protect against tartar buildup.
  • Floss at least once a day. Flossing helps keep plaque from building up by removing food and germs that lodge between teeth.
  • Ask your dentist about mouth rinses. Bacteria-fighting mouth rinses can reduce germs in dental plaque and help prevent gum disease.
  • Keep your dentures clean. Bacteria can build up on dentures just like on teeth. If you wear dentures, keep them clean. Be sure to also brush your gums and tongue.
  • See your dentist regularly. Let your dentist know you have diabetes. Eat before your office visit. It's best to have dental work when your blood sugar level is normal.
  • Keep your blood sugar under control. Good blood sugar levels are the best way to prevent and control mouth problems.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking raises your chance of having gum disease. It also can make many mouth problems -- like dry mouth and infections -- worse.

How to Spot a Problem

Plaque can be difficult to see. That's why it's so important to visit your dentist twice a year.

Also see your dentist if you have any of these symptoms. They could be signs of tooth or gum problems.

  • Red, sore, swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Gums that pull away from your teeth
  • Pus between your teeth or gums
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
  • Bad breath
  • Soreness from dentures