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Diabetes: Tips for a Healthy Mouth

When you 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

Diabetes raises your chances of getting gum disease, as well as other dental problems such as dry mouth. Gum disease is caused by sticky plaque that builds up on your teeth and gums. The germs in plaque can cause sore, swollen, and red gums. When gum disease, or gingivitis, gets worse, it can cause infections and even tooth loss. Since diabetes can make gum disease more severe than usual and infections can be harder to fight, prevention is the name of the game.

What You Can Do

  • 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

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 03, 2015