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Diabetes and oral health

Having diabetes means special attention needs to be paid to care of teeth, gums and overall oral health.

If diabetes is not well managed, there's a risk of:

There's some evidence that having gum disease can make it harder to keep blood sugar under control.

Diabetes and oral health risks

Having diabetes can make you less able to fight off infection, including the gum infections that can lead to serious gum disease.

In the early stages, gum disease is known as gingivitis. The gums are swollen, soft and may bleed, particularly during brushing or flossing.

If gum disease progresses, however, the gums may begin to separate from the teeth, forming pockets that can trap bacteria and increase the risk of infections. Left untreated, the infections can destroy the underlying bones that hold the teeth in place.

In these cases, surgery may be needed. In one technique, called pocket depth reduction, the periodontist folds back the gum tissue, removes the contents of the pockets, and secures the tissue into place so that it fits more tightly around the teeth.

With diabetes, you may heal more slowly after oral surgery. Your dentist or GP may prescribe antibiotics to keep postoperative infection at bay. Pay close attention to your blood sugar levels and control before and after oral surgery.

If you have diabetes, you are also at risk of a fungal infection in the mouth, called oral candidiasis or thrush. This can happen even if you wear dentures.

Dry mouth, called xerostomia, is another common problem among people with diabetes. Saliva is important for oral health - it helps wash away food particles and keep the mouth moist. When you do not have enough saliva, bacteria thrive, tissues can get irritated and inflamed, and your teeth can be more prone to decay.

Diabetes and your teeth: How to minimise risk

Taking care of your oral hygiene at home every day is crucial. Make sure you brush twice a day and floss once a day. Using an antibacterial mouthwash or toothpaste can help to reduce the bacteria in the mouth that can cause gingivitis – ask your dentist whether it is advisable for you to use a mouthwash.

Examine your mouth for any inflammation or signs of bleeding gums. If you notice either, let your dentist know as soon as possible.

Your dentist will advise you how often to have a dental check-up and professional cleanings.

Be sure to tell your dentist that you have been diagnosed with diabetes. It will also help your dentist to know the names of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take.

You may want to see a periodontist - a dentist who specialises in gum disease - if your gum problems persist or seem to get worse.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 02, 2016

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