How does diabetes affect dental health?

by | Aug 5, 2022


Diabetes is a disease that affects all areas of our health from causing harm to the kidneys, nerves, eyes and heart just to name a few areas. What many of us do not realise is the diabetes dental health effect and how it can cause a higher chance of periodontal disease. Gums are prone to becoming infected and affects the bone that holds the teeth in place. It can also lead to a permanent bad breath, loss of teeth and chewing difficulties.

People with diabetes also have a higher chance of getting dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush, a condition that occurs when you do not have enough saliva or fluids to keep your mouth moist. These lead to soreness, infections, ulcers and even tooth decay. To make matters more complicated diabetes causes the sugar levels in your saliva to increase while also slowing down any healing process.

Dental Health and Diabetes

All of us have tiny bacteria living in our mouths which is why we have to pay close attention to our oral health. Without good oral hygiene gums can become infected causing gum disease. This problem is further complicated when someone has diabetes. High blood sugar causes immense risk to gums owing to the poor blood sugar control and as gums become infected they in turn cause blood sugar levels to rise. This causes tooth loss and also destroys your gums and even your bones.

This is why it is especially important for diabetic patients to avoid dental problems, by keeping blood sugar in check and maintaining top condition oral health. You need to pay particular attention to your oral care and ensure that you visit your dentist regularly, every 6-12 months and get updated advice on how to keep you gums and teeth healthy.

Sometimes the first signs of irregular blood glucose levels can occur in the mouth, so it is important for everyone to pay attention to any changes in the mouth. Early diagnosis and treatment will not only help you maintain oral health but overall health as your diabetes is controlled. When you treat gum disease it also helps improve blood glucose levels and reduce the possible damage to your jaw bone and teeth.

The ones mentioned here are some of the more common dental conditions caused by diabetes:


Dental cavities are holes in the teeth, which are caused when there is acid in the mouth which erodes the tooth enamel. Cavities can happen to anyone but are a higher risk for people with diabetes and lead to complications such as infections, toothaches and extractions. Owing to the increased glucose in their saliva and the drier mouth, dental plaque builds up easily for people with diabetes which in turn leads to an increased possibility of cavities.

Symptoms – These include a continuous pain with an occasional sharp twinge, while you will experience heightened tooth sensitivity leading to tenderness or pain when eating or drinking hot, cold or sweet food and beverages. You may notice grey, brown or black spots on your teeth while your breath may also smell bad.

Risks if untreated – You will have to deal with a continuous pain and subsequent tooth abscess which can become infected and even lead to life threatening complications. This is when germs from the infection enters the bloodstream or lead to sepsis, which is when your immune system overacts to an infection and damages your own body’s tissues and organs. It is also known as septicaemia of blood poisoning.

Treatment – Cleaning your teeth and gums a minimum of twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and soft bristle toothbrush will help to remove dental plaque. Using a gentle but firm motion over gums and teeth will help keep the danger areas clean. Use dental floss or interdental cleaners daily.

Gum disease

Gum disease is also known as periodontitis, and is a serious gum infection that damages soft tissue. Gum disease is the most common mouth problem that can affect people with high blood sugar. It starts with a bacterial growth in your mouth and starts with gum inflammation or gingivitis, the stage before periodontitis, which can be treated if detected early. If you do not clean your teeth regularly it allows for a sticky film of bacteria to build up, referred to as plaque. This in turn releases acids that attack your teeth’s enamel and causes decay. If the plaque is allowed to further harden it forms into tartar along the gum and teeth line making it harder to clean. The risk of plaque build-up is increased in people with high blood sugar owing to the increased sugar in the saliva and cause the disease to be quite severe.

Symptoms – There are a number of key symptoms to gum disease and if you experience a few of these it is best to seek the help of a dentist. If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth or floss or if your gums feel sore and are swollen and red you should seek treatment.

Risks if untreated – If left untreated you can develop bad breath as well as a bad taste in your mouth. Your gums will start to shrink back causing your teeth to become lose and even fall out. It will also cause bone damage. Luckily if caught early gum disease is treatable.

Treatment – Gum disease can be avoided by keeping your mouth healthy and clean. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss as well to remove plaque from between your teeth. Especially if you have high blood sugar it is important that you schedule regular visits to your dentist, to have your teeth cleaned properly to remove plaque build-up. You may also be prescribed antibiotics, topical or oral antibiotics.

Oral thrush

This is caused by a fungal infection and produces slightly raised, creamy white sore patches in your mouth or your tongue. Diabetes can cause oral thrush as it increases the glucose levels in the saliva which encourages the overgrowth of the fungus that leads to this.

Symptoms – You will notice white patches in your mouth which when wiped away leave red areas that can bleed slightly. You will have an unpleasant taste in the mouth or experience loss of taste altogether. Your mouth and throat will show redness and you may experience cracks at the corners of your mouth.

Risks if untreated – Untreated oral thrush can lead to the more serious systemic candida infections. Those with a weakened immune system oral thrush can spread to your oesophagus or other parts of your body. Your mouth will continue to feel very uncomfortable.

Treatment – You will mostly likely be prescribed fluconazole an oral antifungal medication or any other such antifungal treatment. You will also be asked to wash your mouth with an antifungal mouthwash.

Dry mouth

This is when your salivary glands in your mouth do not produce enough saliva, which usually happens when you are dehydrated and do not have enough fluid in your body. It is also a common symptom for people with diabetes and high blood sugar.

Symptoms – When your salivary glands do not produce enough saliva your mouth becomes intensely dry and uncomfortable, along with your tongue feeling rough and dry and cracked lips.

Risks if untreated – If dry mouth is allowed to continue it causes long term health problems such as gum disease and infections.

Treatment – Managing your diabetes if you do suffer from high blood sugar is a priority. Along with that the rest of the treatment for dry mouth is relatively straightforward, from drinking plenty of cold water throughout the day and keeping some handy by your bed at night, to sucking on ice cubes and sipping on cool unsweetened drinks to chewing sugar free gum or sucking on sugar free sweets will all help stimulate your salivary glands. Use lip balm if your lips are dry.

Importance of regular dental check ups

Diabetes can affect all areas of your health adversely, including your oral health. By ensuring you have regular dental check ups you can ensure that you keep any such effects at bay. You can take quick remedial action to counter any long term oral problems that will affect your teeth and gums.


Having good oral health is a gift we should give ourselves and we need to pay the proper attention and take the proper care of our teeth and gums. This is especially important if you suffer from diabetes where you are at a higher risk of oral complications occurring.