How Is Diabetes Related to Oral Health?

The high blood sugar levels coming as a result of diabetes can make maintaining oral health difficult. Consequently, people who suffer from this condition are more at risk of periodontitis and gingivitis- which are kinds of gum disease, loss of teeth, oral thrush- which is a fungal infection, and halitosis- known commonly as bad breath or dry mouth. In this article, we will explore the association between oral health and diabetes, related to dental issues, and what you can do for their prevention.

The effect of diabetes on dental health.

The Relation Between Diabetes and Oral Health

Certain oral issues can be increasingly risky due to diabetes, in numerous ways.

High sugar in the blood, otherwise known as glucose, can be the cause of high levels of sugar in saliva. The bacteria found in plaque, which is the sticky film that builds up on teeth, feeds on such sugars, causing tooth loss, cavities, and tooth decay, as well as increasing the chance of periodontitis or gum disease.

Moreover, diabetes affects the immune system by weakening it, making it hard for issues in the mouth to be managed, or infections to heal. This, too, increases the chances of periodontitis and impacts healing.

Ultimately, certain diabetes medications can cause side effects such as insufficient saliva production. Whenever the mouth is too dry, it isn’t able to clear food particles from the mouth and stops bacteria from forming plaque, raising the risk of tooth loss, cavities, and tooth decay.

Types of Diabetes

Diabetes indicates numerous conditions affecting the body’s capability to break down sugars for energy. Typically, most people have type 2 diabetes, in which there is an insufficient uptake of glucose in cells which causes the raising and inadequate production of insulin, the hormone that plays the role of the regulator for blood glucose levels.

Approximately 5% of people with diabetes have type 1, which is caused primarily by the body not generating enough insulin or not generating it at all. Yet, both types are related to dental issues.

Oral Health Problems Associated with Diabetes

Diabetes can be the cause of different dental health issues, or sometimes, increase the risk. The following are the most usual problems people with diabetes should beware of:

Dry mouth caused by diabetes.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is frequently joining diabetes, generally because of the side effects the medications taken to manage it provide. They impact the production of the amount of saliva, which can lead to specific problems, including the following:

  • Halitosis, or chronic bad breath
  • A nasty taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty while swallowing (dysphagia) or chewing
  • Speech difficulties

Moreover, taking into account that saliva has a huge role in handling bacterial spread in the mouth, a dry mouth increases the chances of cavities, tooth decay, gum diseases, and tooth loss. 

Tooth Decay

Another side-by-side walker with diabetes is tooth decay. The presence of high glucose in the bloodstream raises the sugars in saliva, which serve as “food” for the bacteria in the mouth. Resulting this way in an increased level of acidity, which breaks down the hard enamel shells of the teeth. Successively, tooth decay is the cause of cavities, and if untreated, cavities can be the cause of tooth loss.

Tooth Loss as a Risk Factor

When compared to the population as a whole, it is noticeable that tooth loss is a much more usual problem among people with diabetes. As a matter of fact, people with diabetes can face nearly twice as many missing teeth.

Gingivitis caused by diabetes.


A usual kind of gum disease and distinguished by the inflamed and bleeding gums- that is what gingivitis is. Factors such as a decreased immune response, high sugar levels in saliva, and dry mouth, related to diabetes, can significantly raise the risks of developing this type of infection.

The right dental care and secured healthy habits can treat gingivitis, but if left untreated, it can lead to more complicated and severe infections such as periodontitis, or other issues such as tooth decay and bad breath.


Periodontitis is a complication of gingivitis and a very severe gum infection. Adding to swelling and bleeding in the gums, this disease can cause pockets, known as abscesses, to form surrounding the roots of teeth and bone. As a result, there might be loose teeth, chronic bad breath, and chewing difficulties, and can harm underlying bone leading to tooth loss, if unmanaged.

Since high blood glucose also affects the immune system, gum diseases such as gingivitis or periodontitis, are much harder to control.


Oral thrush, otherwise known as oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection that affects the mouth’s tissues. Distinguished by sore patches of white buildup inside the tissue lining or on the tongue, it is not contagious and can be easily managed with the use of antifungal medicine. However, if left untreated, the fungus is able to spread to other parts of the body, resulting in much more severe hiccups.

Slow wound healing as a result of diabetes.

Slow Wound Healing

A side-by-side walker for diabetes reduces immune functionality, which can affect the mouth’s health. The body is unable to produce enough cytokines whenever the blood glucose levels are high and the insulin is low- which are a very usual feature of this condition.

Lipids or fats and these proteins are vital for immune system functionality and signaling. Additionally, diabetes obstructs leukocytes- the blood cells combating infections and decreases the immune system’s capability to identify attacking viruses, fungi, or bacteria.

Subsequently, in those with diabetes, wound healing is thwarted. Which makes it much easier for gum disease to turn into periodontitis and permits cases to become much more painful and severe. This raises the risk of oral health problems developing, such as tooth loss or decay.

Preventing oral health problems in patients with diabetes.

If I have diabetes, how do I prevent oral health problems?

Considering that people with diabetes are more at risk of oral health harm, it is critical to thoroughly follow good oral hygiene practices, pay strict attention to any alterations in oral health, and contact the dentist as soon as such changes go underway. Some of the suggestions for preventing or reducing oral health issues include:

  • Maintain the blood sugar close to normality. At every dental visit, ensure to tell your dentist your diabetes state. Namely, be aware of your glycosylated hemoglobin (HgA1C) level. An indication of good management is a level of under 7%. In the event that you have experienced an episode of low blood sugar in the past, known as an insulin reaction, you are at high risk of experiencing another one. Let your dentist know when your last episode was, how often such episodes happen, and when was the last time you took your dose of insulin, in case you do.
  • Visit your dentist prior to setting treatment for periodontal disease. If there is oral surgery planned, tell your doctor to have a discussion with your dentist about your overall health state, so they can both decide together if there is a need for any pre-surgical antibiotics, a meal schedule changement, or a change in the timing and dosage of the insulin you take, in case you take any.
  • Ensure giving your dentist your doctor’s information such as his/ her name and phone number. Such information should be easily accessible to your dentist if any concerns or questions arise.
  • Convey a list of all the names and dosages of every medicine you are currently taking to your dentist. He or she will need this information to prescribe the medicines that are least likely to interfere with the medicines you are currently using. For instance, if there is a huge infection being treated, your insulin dose, for those who are taking it, might need to be arranged.
  • Put off any non-emergency dental procedure if your blood sugar isn’t well administered. Yet, acute infections, those that develop really quickly, such as abscesses, must be treated asap.
  • Bear in mind that the healing period might take longer in people suffering from diabetes. Follow your dentist’s post-treatment guidelines meticulously.
  • Give a call to your orthodontist immediately if a bracket or wire (such as those in braces) cuts your tongue or mouth.

What are the misconceptions about oral health problems and diabetes?

People with diabetes are at greater risk for dental cavities

There exist two strands of opinions on this subject. The first group of people is a believer in the fact that high levels of glucose in the saliva of people who suffer from unmanaged diabetes aid bacteria in thriving. This results in caries developing (cavities or tooth decay) and gum disease. Additionally, people with diabetes have the tendency to eat small and more frequent meals during the day. This raises the risks of bacteria growing and cavities developing.

The other group of people is a believer in the fact that people with diabetes are more responsible for what they eat considering that they are always closely monitoring their sugar intake. Meaning, they aren’t big consumers of many foods containing cavity-causing sugar. Truth be told, people with well-managed diabetes have no more or less tooth decay or periodontal disease than people without diabetes. The best protection against cavity formation and periodontal disease is good blood sugar regulation and good oral hygiene.

Patient with diabetes monitoring his health to prevent dental problems.

People with diabetes lose their teeth more often and sooner than people without diabetes

There are a lot of factors that play crucial roles in the loss of teeth with diabetes. Firstly, people with unmanaged diabetes are more inclined to generate gum disease and gingivitis. If the infection perseveres, it can spread to the underlying bone that secures the teeth. The only complication in the situation is the fact that infections do not resolve as fast in people suffering from diabetes.

The good news for those with diabetes is that the practice of good oral hygiene habits such as brushing twice daily, at least, or even better, after every meal, with a toothpaste that comprises fluoride, flossing daily, and maintaining the blood sugar level fairly managed- the possibility for infection from gum disease will be greatly diminished or fully eliminated, and with that so will the chances of tooth loss. If a person with diabetes needs surgery, he or she will be more at risk for post-surgical issues, including infections.

Following strict medical care and self-care that maintains the blood sugar levels as normal as feasible, and good personal and professional dental care, issues after the operation are no more probable in people with diabetes than in those without it.

The raised blood sugar levels coming as a result of diabetes can make it pretty difficult to keep appropriate oral health. As such, people with this medical condition are more susceptible to periodontitis and gingivitis (both kinds of gum disease), loss of teeth, oral thrush (a fungal infection), dry mouth, or halitosis (chronic bad breath).

Dental health in people with diabetes.


Part of the negative health impacts of diabetes is poor oral health. Such disease can result in periodontitis and gingivitis, dry mouth, tooth decay and loss, and oral thrush- an infection caused by fungus on the tongue or inside the mouth. Moreover, oral issues can worsen due to diabetes’ effect on the immune system functionality.

Attending timely dental visits, adopting good oral hygiene habits, quitting smoking, and managing blood sugar levels, can help in impeding oral health issues from happening.

A Word From Trio Dental Center

Though the protection of oral health might not be the main focus of diabetes management, it is undoubtedly an essential part of diabetes care. Dental problems increase the chances of the development of more severe health issues and can directly affect the quality of life and confidence. If you are suffering from diabetes, be proactive: Look for treatment and have a discussion with your dentist on what you can do to save your smile.

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