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Living with Diabetes.

Understanding the Link Between Diabetes and Oral Health


How does diabetes affect oral health? The answer is more complex than you might think—get reliable information from the experts at Advanced Diabetes Supply.

Diabetes is linked to countless complications. If you have this disease, you could face problems related to your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. While the oral health-related complications of diabetes aren’t discussed quite as heavily as these issues, you’ll still need to look out for them. Ignoring your oral health can lead to ulcers, tooth decay, and many other potential problems.

Are you wondering “how does diabetes affect oral health?” or “how does diabetes cause oral health problems?” If so, you’re in the right place. This is your comprehensive guide to the link between diabetes and oral health, straight from the experts at Advanced Diabetes Supply.

How Does Diabetes Cause Oral Health Problems?

Obviously, the increased glucose levels associated with diabetes can affect your blood sugar. But you might not know that this disease can also increase the sugar content of your saliva. Furthermore, diabetes can negatively impact your body’s ability to produce saliva in the first place. Most diabetes-related oral health issues are related to these factors.

The Effect of Diabetes on Oral Health

In the short term, diabetes-related oral health issues can manifest in the form of gum disease and dry mouth. When left untreated, these problems may contribute to additional complications, such as tooth decay, oral thrush, and ulcers. That means people with diabetes need to know how they can identify and treat oral health problems.

Can Diabetes Cause Tooth Decay and Gum Disease?

It’s no secret that sugar plays a vital role in the process of tooth decay. When you consume foods that are full of sugar, the combination of glucose and the plaque in your mouth creates an acid. This acid gradually eats away at the enamel protecting your teeth, causing cavities and abscesses.

But the question remains: can diabetes cause tooth decay? As you already know, diabetes can cause the level of glucose in your saliva to increase—and that sugar will also affect your teeth. Because of that, people with diabetes should be aware of the possibility of encountering tooth decay as a diabetes complication.

The question “can diabetes cause gum disease?” can also be answered with a “yes.” The increased salivary glucose levels seen among people with diabetes can encourage bacteria growth, and there’s definitely a connection between diabetes and plaque build-up. If left alone, these factors can easily result in gum disease.

Oral Health Complications of Diabetes

Some oral health complications closely associated with diabetes include gum disease, dry mouth, and oral thrush. Here, you’ll have a chance to learn more about each of these problems:

Periodontal Disease and Gum Infections With Diabetes

People living with diabetes have a higher-than-normal risk of gum disease (AKA periodontal disease)—an infection affecting the gums and bones responsible for keeping your teeth in place. Red flags for periodontal disease include:

  • Loose teeth
  • Swollen, bleeding, receding, or red gums
  • Larger-than-normal gaps between teeth
  • Persistent bad breath

Untreated gum disease can lead to additional oral health problems, such as mouth pain, trouble chewing, and loss of teeth. This condition is also linked to health issues such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease—all of which are already more common than average among people with diabetes.

Making matters worse, there’s a negative relationship between the presence of diabetes and periodontal disease treatment efforts. Since diabetes can slow the rate at which people heal from gum disease, you’ll need to consider this condition while treating periodontal issues.

Xerostomia and Other Oral Health Issues in Diabetics

Gum disease isn’t the only oral health issue associated with diabetes. You’ll also need to look out for xerostomia, or the sensation of having a dry mouth. If you have xerostomia, you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth—a condition that can lead to tooth decay, infections, soreness, and even ulcers.

While xerostomia is bad enough on its own, smoking can aggravate this condition (and diabetes, for that matter). To protect your oral health, consider quitting with the help of nicotine replacement therapy, local support groups, and physical activity.

Additionally, the combination of xerostomia and heightened glucose levels in your saliva can cause oral thrush. This is a fungal infection characterized by the formation of white, painful patches in your mouth.

Preventing and Managing Oral Health Problems

While oral health issues are a common complaint among people with diabetes, you don’t just have to accept these problems as a fact of life. Instead, you can take these steps to prevent and manage them:

Managing Plaque Build-Up and Oral Infections

Dental plaque certainly isn’t exclusive to diabetes, but it tends to be a more significant issue than usual for people dealing with this disease. During your regular dental care appointments, your dentist will get rid of tartar and plaque with specialized instruments. They could also recommend treatments like dental sealants, prescription toothpaste/mouthwash, and fluoride treatments.

Other ways you can deal with diabetes and plaque build-up include:

  • Brushing at least twice a day. For best results, use a toothbrush with soft bristles and fluoride toothpaste for two minutes.
  • Flossing every day. Flossing before you brush is a highly effective way to manage plaque and remove food stuck between your teeth.
  • Using mouthwash. Along with brushing and flossing, it’s wise to rinse your mouth once a day with prescription or over-the-counter antiseptic mouthwash.
  • Eating a healthy diet. Instead of choosing snacks that are high in sugar and starch, focus on eating fruits and vegetables along with low-fat dairy products and complex carbohydrates.
  • Chewing sugarless gum. It’s not always possible to brush and floss right after you eat, but chewing sugar-free gum from brands with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance can help.

When it comes to treating infections like oral thrush, treatment efforts will focus on stopping the spread of the fungus. There’s a strong chance that your doctor will give you an antifungal medication in the form of tablets, lozenges, or a liquid. You can also benefit from home remedies like warm saltwater rinses and paying closer attention to your overall oral hygiene.


If you have periodontal disease, you’ll need professional treatment from a dentist to resolve this issue. Depending on your situation, gum disease treatment can be simple (giving your teeth a deep cleaning or prescribing a specialized mouth rinse) or in-depth (referring you to a periodontist for surgery).

Of course, the most effective approach to diabetes and periodontal disease treatment is to prevent gum disease from forming in the first place. Whether or not you have diabetes, be sure to visit your dentist every six months. During your visits, they’ll check for the warning signs of gum disease—and if you’re already suffering from this condition, they’ll start treating it early on.

How Poor Oral Health Can Lead to Diabetes

It’s easy to see how diabetes can contribute to oral health problems. However, it’s a good idea to consider another possibility by asking “can poor oral health lead to diabetes?” Believe it or not, scientific research points to a potential cause-and-effect relationship between poor oral health and diabetes development.

A 2020 study involving 188,013 subjects from Korea’s National Health Insurance System-Health Screening Cohort looked at potential connections between oral health problems and diabetes. This study found that frequent tooth brushing was associated with a decreased risk of new- onset diabetes while the presence of periodontal diseases and an increased number of missing teeth were positively associated with new-onset diabetes.

The Relationship Between Gum Disease and Insulin Resistance

Along with this, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the connections between periodontal disease and resistance to insulin. In 2016, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published a study investigating the links between severe periodontitis and insulin resistance. This study found that people with heightened insulin resistance were more likely to have serious periodontitis—even among non-abdominally obese people.

Addressing Oral Health to Manage and Prevent Diabetes

People with diabetes have many different complications to look out for—and unfortunately, that includes oral health problems like periodontal disease, dry mouth, and oral thrush. Asking the question “how does diabetes affect oral health?” is an excellent first step, but you’ll need to go further. By understanding the effects of diabetes on oral health, taking your oral hygiene seriously, keeping your blood sugar in normal levels and following the advice shared in this article, you can prevent these issues and be ready to manage them if they do arise.

Making an effort to deal with the oral health complications of diabetes is essential, but this work can’t replace standard diabetes treatment methods like tracking glucose levels and administering insulin. For that, you’ll need access to a steady supply of high-quality diabetes supplies. To get these vital supplies from a company that cares deeply about customer service, start by browsing Advanced Diabetes Supply’s diabetes products today.