Diabetes & Oral Health: How to Protect Your Teeth

Your diabetes can affect your teeth. Having uncontrolled diabetes can mean you're more likely to get gum disease or the other problems below. The good news: Good habits will help keep your mouth healthy.

Diabetes can make you more likely to have cavities and fungal infections. Other potential problems include:

  • Difficulty fighting off infections, including those that might lead to gum disease
  • Slower healing time after dental surgery

Dry mouth, called xerostomia, is common among people with diabetes. Saliva is important to oral health -- it helps wash away food particles and keep the mouth moist. When you don't produce enough moisture, bacteria thrive, tissues can get irritated and inflamed, and your teeth can be more prone to decay.

Even so, you can protect your teeth and oral health. Here's how.

Steps to Take

  • Make sure you brush at least twice a day and floss once a day.
  • Use an antibacterial mouth rinse twice a day to help curb bacteria that can cause plaque buildup on teeth and gums.
  • Check your mouth for inflammation or signs of bleeding gums. If you notice either, let your dentist know as soon as possible.
  • Have your teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months, or even every 3 or 4 months. Your dentist may suggest stepping up the cleaning schedule if you tend to build up plaque or tartar quickly.
  • Make sure your dentist knows that you have diabetes. Give her the names of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you take.
  • Make sure your diabetes is well controlled.

Your dentist may refer you to a periodontist -- a dentist who specializes in gum disease -- if your gum problems persist or seem to get worse.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alfred D. Wyatt Jr., DMD on February 12, 2018

Sources

SOURCES: 

Sally Cram, DDS, periodontist, Washington, D.C.; consumer adviser, American Dental Association.

David Cochran, DDS, PhD, past president, American Academy of Periodontology; professor and chairman, department of periodontics, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio.

Ship, J. The Journal of the American Dental Association, October 2003.

American Diabetes Association: "Oral Health & Oral Hygiene."

American Academy of Periodontology: "Gum Disease and Diabetes" and "Pocket Depth Reduction."

American Dental Association.

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