Diabetes and your teeth: How managing diabetes helps your oral health

Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose. Over time it causes serious health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss.

More than 61,000 adults in South Dakota have diagnosed diabetes. Another 19,000 people in South Dakota have diabetes but don’t know it, and 1 in 3 South Dakotans have prediabetes (higher than normal blood glucose, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.)

As the number of people living with diabetes continues to increase it’s important to talk about the impact it may have on other aspects of your life, including oral health.

In this article we will talk about the effects diabetes may have on your oral health and how to manage them.

Diabetes impact on oral health

Diabetes can affect nearly all parts of your body, including your mouth. Common effects include decreased saliva that results in a dry mouth and higher risk of tooth decay and oral thrush. People with diabetes are also more likely to suffer from gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss for adults.

Diabetes and gum disease

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing gum disease. This is because ongoing high blood sugar can mean high-levels of glucose in saliva, which leads to more bacterial growth and plaque buildup that can result in infection in your gums.

If you develop gum disease, your gums become inflamed. Inflammation in the body can lead to higher blood glucose, making it harder to manage your diabetes.

Gum disease can be serious if left untreated and may lead to tooth loss or infection in the gums and jaw bones. That’s why it’s important to care for your teeth every day and to see your dentist regularly for preventive checkups.

Diabetes impacts gum disease treatment

Unfortunately, having diabetes may slow the healing process after a periodontal disease treatment at the dentist. High blood sugar, neuropathy, poor circulation, and a compromised immune system are just some of the factors that may impact the healing process.

Preventing gum disease in the first place or catching and treating it early are the best ways to keep your gums and mouth healthy without a major procedure.

Tips to manage diabetes and help oral health

If you are living with diabetes or know someone who is, you are probably aware of the importance of monitoring blood sugar levels. There are also things you can do to manage the condition and support better oral health:

  • Control blood sugar levels
  • Practice good oral health habits daily
  • Tell your dentist if you have diabetes
  • See your dentist twice a year for a preventive checkup
  • Quit smoking – Free resources to help are available from the SD QuitLine
  • Monitor your gums and contact your dental team with any new pain, swelling, or bleeding.