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Taking care of your mouth when you have diabetes is critical for your overall well-being. Diabetes significantly amplifies your risk of periodontal disease, which can lead to inflamed gums and potential tooth loss. The key to keeping that risk under control is effective management of blood glucose levels and great oral hygiene. When these get neglected, the mouth becomes a rich breeding ground for proliferation of bacteria which can further exacerbate oral health issues.

Moreover, diabetes often causes dry mouth, making you more prone to cavities, gum disease and oral infections. To keep your oral health in its best condition, be sure to address dry mouth by staying hydrated and taking preventive measures. Taking a proactive approach to manage your diabetes, like regular monitoring and following a care plan, is vital to minimise risks and promote a healthy mouth.

When you prioritise your regular dental check-ups, maintain stable blood glucose and stick to good oral hygiene practices, you safeguard not just your oral health but also your overall well-being. These actions are the building blocks of your strong defence against potential diabetes-related oral health issues.


Diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar. This occurs when the body either cannot produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. The pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which has two main functions: controlling the amount of glucose in the bloodstream and facilitating its entry into cells for energy.

There are several types of diabetes, with the most common being:

Type 1 diabetes

This type is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes require insulin injections to manage their blood sugar levels.

Type 2 diabetes

This is the most prevalent form of diabetes and is often linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity, physical inactivity and a poor diet. In Type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin, or the cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. It can be managed through lifestyle changes, oral medications and, in some cases, insulin therapy.

Gestational diabetes

This type occurs during pregnancy when the body cannot produce enough insulin to meet the increased needs. It raises the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery and may also increase the likelihood of both the mother and child developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

pregnant woman with gestational diabetes

Impact of diabetes on oral health

Periodontal disease

Individuals with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing periodontal disease, also called gum disease. This condition is characterised by inflammation of the gums, which can progress to the surrounding structures, leading to potential tooth loss.

Bacterial growth

Poorly controlled diabetes creates an environment in which oral bacteria thrive. Elevated glucose levels in saliva provide a nutrient source, promoting the growth of bacteria. This imbalance can disrupt the normal oral microbiome, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and oral issues.

Dry mouth (xerostomia)

Diabetes can cause reduced saliva production, resulting in dry mouth. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by washing away food particles, neutralising acids and preventing the overgrowth of bacteria. Dry mouth can increase the risk of cavities, gum disease and oral infections.

Delayed wound healing

Diabetes can slow down the healing process. This is particularly relevant for oral wounds, such as those resulting from dental procedures. Delayed wound healing increases the risk of infections and complications after dental treatments.

Fungal infections

Individuals with diabetes may be more susceptible to fungal infections in the mouth, such as oral thrush. This condition is characterised by the overgrowth of the Candida fungus, leading to white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks or gums.

Altered taste and smell

Changes in the sense of taste (dysgeusia) and smell can occur in individuals with diabetes, affecting their perception of flavours and potentially impacting dietary habits.

Increased risk of cavities

The higher levels of specific bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, associated with diabetes can contribute to an increased risk of cavities. These bacteria thrive on higher glucose levels, leading to enhanced acid production that, over time, can erode tooth enamel and escalate the likelihood of cavity formation.

Complications in dental procedures

Individuals with diabetes may experience more complications during dental procedures due to impaired healing and potential infection risks.

High-risk individuals with diabetes

smoker with diabetes

Individuals with uncontrolled diabetes: Poorly controlled blood sugar levels increase the risk of oral health problems.

Long-term diabetics: Individuals who have had diabetes for a long time may be at a higher risk of oral complications.

Poorly managed blood sugar levels: Fluctuations in blood glucose levels can contribute to oral health issues.

Smokers with diabetes: Smoking increases the risk of gum disease, and when combined with diabetes, the risk is even higher.

People with poor oral hygiene: Inadequate oral care, such as infrequent brushing and flossing, can exacerbate oral health problems.

Individuals with dry mouth (xerostomia): Diabetes can cause a reduction in saliva production, leading to dry mouth, which increases the risk of dental issues.

Those with a weak immune system: Diabetes can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections, including those in the mouth.

People with poor nutrition: Diets high in sugar and poor nutrition can contribute to both diabetes and oral health problems.

Pregnant women with diabetes: Pregnant women with diabetes may be more prone to gum disease and other oral health issues.

Individuals with a family history: Genetic factors may play a role in both diabetes and oral health, so individuals with a family history of diabetes or oral problems may be at an increased risk.

Seniors with diabetes: Ageing, combined with diabetes, can increase the risk of oral health issues.

Preventing oral problems and promoting well-being

Control your blood sugar levels

Keeping your blood sugar levels within a target range is paramount. Regular monitoring of your blood sugar, adhering to your doctor’s prescriptions and maintaining a well-balanced diet can contribute to better glycemic control, reducing the risk of oral complications.

Commit to excellent oral hygiene

Establishing and maintaining a thorough oral hygiene routine is fundamental. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and don’t forget to floss daily. Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings are essential for plaque and tartar removal.

Schedule your regular dental check-ups

Consistent dental check-ups are crucial for the early detection and prevention of oral issues. Inform your dentist about your diabetes status and any changes in your health. Professional cleanings and examinations serve as proactive measures against potential oral issues.

Quit smoking for your oral health

For individuals with diabetes who smoke, quitting is a crucial step in preventing oral problems. Smoking exacerbates gum disease, and when combined with diabetes, it significantly increases the risk of complications. Seek support from healthcare professionals for smoking cessation programs if needed.

Stay hydrated to combat dry mouth

Diabetics, especially those experiencing dry mouth (xerostomia), should prioritise staying hydrated. Drink water to maintain saliva production, which is vital for oral health. Chewing sugar-free gum or using saliva substitutes may also alleviate dry mouth symptoms.

Address your nutritional concerns

Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet is beneficial for both diabetes management and oral health. Limit your intake of sugary snacks and beverages, as they can contribute to tooth decay. Include a variety of nutrient-rich foods to support overall health, including that of your teeth and gums.

Manage your stress levels

Stress can impact both diabetes and oral health. Use stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises or engaging in activities that bring relaxation. Stress reduction can positively influence your overall health, including your oral well-being.

Promptly address your oral issues

If any signs of oral problems emerge, such as bleeding gums, persistent bad breath or changes in your mouth, seek prompt attention from a dental professional. Early intervention can prevent the progression of issues and contribute to better oral health outcomes.

Keep your smile and body healthy

Keeping your mouth in great shape is one key to lowering the risks associated with diabetes. Make your regular dental appointments a high priority, work out an effective oral hygiene routine and stay consistent, and be mindful of your lifestyle choices. These proactive steps play a significant role in managing diabetes and promoting overall well-being. You will feel the improvement, and your future self will genuinely thank you for it!