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Diabetes and Your Teeth


  • Narrator:

    Physician assistant Melissa Jeffries is showing 16-year-old Emma Lee the ropes when it comes to managing her diabetes. Melissa, an editorial manager at WebMD, has had type 1 diabetes for 24 years.  She’s passionate about sharing her experience, good and bad, with others more newly diagnosed. Today’s lesson: the importance of proper dental hygiene for anyone with diabetes, type 1 or 2. 

  • Emma Lee:

    I notice a lot like when my blood sugars run higher, a lot of times my gums will become more sensitive to my brushing.

  • Melissa Jeffries, PA:

    And then sometimes bad teeth can actually affect -- cause blood sugars to go up, too ... so it’s kind of a ... goes both ways.

  • Narrator:

    Obviously a dedicated brushing and flossing routine -- at least twice a day, more if possible -- is key for any person with diabetes.  Just as important: brushing gums.

  • Emma:

    You said we have to brush our gums? I just brush my teeth and floss.

  • Tonya Roach, RDH:

    Yeah the reason you have to brush your gums is because there is bacteria beneath them. Flossing helps pull everything out, but the brushing helps stimulate and keep the bacteria out from underneath there as well.

  • Narrator:

    Also critical: professional cleanings by a dental hygienist. Many dentists recommend every six months. Because no matter how much Melissa brushes and flosses, she cannot possibly remove all of the tartar buildup that causes gum disease. 

  • Steven Drescher, DDS:

    When you have diabetes there’s a higher incidence that you can get inflammation of your gums, and that’s exactly what you’re experiencing down here  -- inflamed and irritated.

  • Narrator:

    Yearly X-rays are also recommended to flag developing cavities or potential bone loss. Melissa’s X-rays look good, but her experience is a lesson for Emma.

  • Melissa:

    So you should do a better job than I did about coming to the dentist.

  • Emma:


  • Narrator:

    For WebMD, I’m Sandee LaMotte.