How Can Diabetes Harm Your Oral Health?

daibetes and dental health problems
on Thu 25 Oct


Were you aware that people with diabetes are more likely to have dental health problems and that having periodontal (gum) disease may make it more difficult to control your blood glucose levels?


By dental health problems I am talking about symptoms like


  • Sore or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Chronic bad breath


About Gum Disease

There are three stages of gum disease which can progress more quickly when your high levels of blood glucose are untreated.

1.  Gingivitis – a reversible condition which is caused by poor dental hygiene and irregular removal of plaque from the teeth

2.  Periodontitis (mild) – this can develop when gingivitis is left untreated and mostly occurs in people who have a family history of gum disease, poor oral hygiene and uncontrolled diabetes

3.  Periodontitis (severe): This is the most advanced stage of gum disease, and there will be significant loss of tissue and bone around the teeth which will make them loose or even fall out.


Having prolonged high blood glucose levels is reported to lead to gum disease developing or worsening more quickly and, unfortunately, having your body fight infection will simultaneously cause your blood glucose levels to rise.


Some studies have shown that gum disease may also contribute to heart disease.  It is thought that this may happen because blood and inflammation in the gums travel into the blood system and then causes blockages in the blood vessels thus reducing the blood flowing to the heart.



When the level of blood glucose increases in your saliva it can contribute towards painful white patches in the mouth, a redness of the tongue and cracked skin at the corner of the mouth. This is due to a fungal infection called oral thrush.


A dry mouth

Diabetes can also cause you to have a dry mouth and In turn a dry mouth allows more tooth- decaying bacteria and the build-up of plaque. Left untreated plaque will then turn into tartar which builds up under your gum lines and causes increasing problems 


A dry mouth can also cause:

  • Soreness
  • Ulcers
  • Infections
  • Tooth decay


If you don’t stop things getting worse you could end up with such a severe infection that this may affect your food intake which of course will affect the management of your diabetes.


Unfortunately diabetes also slows down the healing process so this can interfere with any dental treatment.


Recent Studies

264 patients were studied over a 4 year period.  These patients had

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Moderate to severe periodontitis
  • At least 15 teeth


and were randomly assigned to either intensive periodontal treatment (IPT) or a lesser control periodontal treatment (CPT). After 12 months it was found that the IPT patients had lower blood glucose than the CPT patients. 


The interpretation of this was that “routine oral health assessment and treatment of periodontitis could be important for effective management of type 2 diabetes”


A summary of this research was published in October 2018 and can be found here


Managing the risk

You may now realise the importance of maintaining good dental health if you have diabetes.


Look after yourself by taking good care of your gums and teeth, controlling your blood sugar levels, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and giving up smoking.


You should also make regular appointments with your dentist and advise them about your condition.  They will need to be aware of your medication before carrying out dental work particularly because tooth extraction may take a long time to heal.   They may also need to review how often they need to check your teeth and gums.


I hope this has been helpful.




Although every effort is made to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional.


As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals Dr Vanderpump cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can he be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link


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