Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on March 15, 2021

4 Signs You May Have a Problem

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Diabetes puts you at risk for dental problems. It hurts your ability to fight bacteria in your mouth. Having high blood sugar encourages bacteria to grow and contributes to gum disease. You may have gum disease if you have:

  • Gums that are red, sore, bleeding, or swollen, or that pull away from your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Chronic bad breath
  • An irregular bite or dentures that don't fit well

Control Diabetes to Keep Your Smile

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Well-controlled diabetes helps keep your mouth healthy. If you have poorly controlled or high blood sugar, you have a higher chance of dry mouth, gum disease, tooth loss, and fungal infections like thrush. Since infections can also make your blood sugar rise, your diabetes may become harder to control. Keeping your mouth healthy can help you manage your blood sugar.

See Your Dentist Regularly

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People with diabetes are more likely to have oral infections. You should get dental checkups at least twice a year. Let your dentist know you have diabetes and what medicines you take. Regular checkups and professional cleanings can help keep a mouth healthy. And your dentist can teach you the best ways to care for your teeth and gums at home.

Keep Plaque at Bay

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Sticky plaque -- food, saliva, and bacteria -- starts to form on your teeth after you eat, releasing acids that attack tooth enamel. Untreated plaque turns into tartar, which builds under gum lines and is hard to remove with flossing. The longer it stays on your teeth, the more harmful it is. Bacteria in plaque causes inflammation and leads to gum disease. High blood sugar can make gum disease worse.

Brush Daily, Brush Right

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When you brush your teeth twice a day, it not only keeps your breath fresh, but it also helps rid your mouth of bacteria that makes up plaque and can lead to infections. To brush properly, point your bristles at a 45-degree angle against your gums. Use gentle back-and-forth strokes all over your teeth -- in front, in back, and on chewing surfaces -- for two minutes. If holding a toothbrush is hard for you, try an electric toothbrush. Also brush your gums and tongue.

Floss Every Day

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It helps control plaque. Floss can reach where a toothbrush can't, like between the teeth. Do it every day, and use floss and interdental cleaners that carry the American Dental Association (ADA) seal. Ask your dentist for tips if you're not sure how to floss. Like everything else, it gets easier with practice.

Rinse

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Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash every day. It freshens your breath, gets debris out of your mouth, and helps ward off gum disease and plaque buildup. Talk to your doctor about the best rinse for you.

Take Care of Your Dentures

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Loose-fitting or poorly maintained dentures can lead to gum irritation and infections. It's important to talk to your dentist about any changes in the fit of your dentures. When you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk of fungal infections like thrush. Poorly maintained dentures can contribute to thrush, too. Remove and clean your dentures daily to help lower your risk of infection.

Toss the Tobacco

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Tobacco products -- cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and pipes -- are bad for anyone's mouth. But if you have diabetes and you smoke, you have even higher odds of developing gum disease. Tobacco can damage tissue and cause receding gums. It can also speed up bone and tissue loss. Motivate yourself to quit. List your reasons for quitting, set a date, and get the support of family and friends.

Prepare for Oral Surgery

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Well-controlled blood sugar reduces your chance of infection and speeds healing. If you need oral surgery, tell your dentist and surgeon you have diabetes beforehand. Your doctor may recommend that you wait to have surgery until your blood sugars are under control

4 Steps to Protect Your Health

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The same steps that ensure a healthy mouth also help you manage your diabetes.

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Keep up with your diabetes medications.
  • See your dentist regularly to lower your of a serious problem.

 

Know the Warning Signs

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Regular dental checkups are important because your dentist can spot gum disease even when you don't have any pain or symptoms. But you should examine your teeth and gums yourself for early signs of trouble. Infections can move fast. If you notice redness, swelling, bleeding, loose teeth, dry mouth, pain, or any other symptoms that worry you, talk to your dentist right away

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