Good oral hygiene is an important part of diabetes management. Approximately 90 percent of adults develop gum disease, and the chances of developing gum disease are even greater for those with diabetes. Even children and teens with diabetes may be at an increased risk of gum disease.

Even though gum disease is caused mostly by plaque on your teeth, diabetes may add to the problem by reducing your mouth’s ability to battle germs. Additionally, high blood glucose levels may worsen gum disease. And while your diabetes may increase the effects of gum disease, gum disease may increase the effects of your diabetes ┬ámaking your diabetes a little tougher to control.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), gum disease may be painless. Therefore, you may not even know you have gum disease until damage has been done. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs of gum disease:

  • Your gums bleed while brushing or flossing.
  • Your gums are tender or swollen.
  • Your gums have pulled away from your teeth.
  • You notice pus between your teeth and gums.
  • You have bad breath.
  • Your permanent teeth are loose or separating from one other.
  • You notice changes in the fit of your teeth when you bite.
  • You notice changes in the fit of your bridges or partial dentures.

Oral Infections

While gum disease is the most common oral problem for diabetes patients, there are other problems to be aware of. Diabetes researchers believe there may be a connection between diabetes and chronic oral infections. Oral infections occur when germs collect in one area of your mouth. According to the ADA, you may have an oral infection if you experience any of the following:

  • Pus or swelling around your gums, teeth or any part of your mouth.
  • Pus or swelling around your gums, teeth or any part of your mouth.
  • Mouth or sinus pain that persists.
  • Red or white patches on your cheeks, gums, tongue or roof of your mouth.
  • Pain while chewing.
  • Tooth pain while eating sweet, hot or cold things.
  • Dark holes or spots on your teeth.

In addition, people with diabetes and proper blood glucose control may experience an improved healing process with oral problems. If you’ve undergone dental surgery, you may be less likely to get an oral infection following surgery if your blood glucose levels are controlled. As with so many aspects of diabetes, tight glucose control may reduce your risks.

Oral-hygiene-and-diabetes Oral Hygiene and Diabetes
Oral hygiene and diabetes

Certain problems associated with diabetes, such as dry mouth, may simply annoy you. However, even simple problems may affect your health. If you feel your mouth is too dry, it may be due to your diabetes medications or high blood glucose levels. If left alone, dry mouth may lead to cavities or salivary gland infections.

How can you Help Fight Oral Hygiene Problems?

The ADA recommends the following to help fight gum disease and other oral problems:

  • Brush twice a day and floss every day.
  • Make twice-yearly trips to the dentist.
  • Educate yourself about how oral problems start.
  • Know how to spot the early signs of gum disease and oral infections.
  • Keep your blood glucose under control.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Decrease the length of time you wear your dentures.
  • If you have dry mouth, drink more liquids, chew sugar-free gum and try saliva substitutes.

The ADA also recommends that you tell the dentist that you have diabetes. Also, keep your health care team members up to date on your oral hygiene needs, and make sure your dentist consults with your doctor about treatment options if you have a serious oral problem. You may need to adjust your diabetes medications or take antibiotics if you’re having oral surgery.

All in all, it’s important to keep your mouth healthy, just as you would keep the rest of your body healthy. And, keep in mind that tight glucose control may help reduce your risk of gum disease and/or oral infections.