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Healthy teeth and gums with diabetes

Healthy teeth and gums: an important part of your diabetes management plan

Everybody likes a healthy smile. And keeping your teeth and gums healthy is especially important if you have diabetes. That’s because people with diabetes are at higher risk for a variety of oral health issues, including periodontal (gum) disease, which can damage the gums and bone around your teeth.

The vicious cycle

Gum disease can make it harder for you to manage your blood sugar. And poorly controlled diabetes can, in turn, lead to even worse tooth and gum problems. Studies suggest that gum disease also may be linked to other serious health problems, like cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Gum disease

Your mouth is home to millions of germs. Chronically high blood sugar disrupts the body's immune response to bacteria allowing them to grow. That’s one reason why people with diabetes are prone to getting periodontal (gum) disease. If you have diabetes, you need to take good care of your teeth and gums.

The bacteria in your mouth form a sticky, naturally occurring substance called plaque. Plaque builds up on your teeth—especially along the gum line—unless you brush and floss regularly. If ignored, the plaque eventually hardens into tartar, the gritty stuff your dentist scrapes off when cleaning your teeth. Both plaque and tartar can lead to infection in your gums.

Early gum disease is called gingivitis. Gums can become swollen, red, and prone to bleeding. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a severe infection of the gums called periodontitis. It can cause the gums to come loose from the tooth root and recede, and the bone that holds your teeth in place to break down.

Chew on these tips

How can you help keep your teeth and gums healthy? Follow these simple steps:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. Gently brush all tooth surfaces and along the gum line.
  • Floss at least once a day. Flossing cleans plaque that your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Get regular dental cleanings and checkups. Be sure to let your dentist know that you have diabetes.
  • Call your dentist if you notice bleeding gums, a swollen or sore area, or pain or sensitivity while eating.

Remember that it is important to keep your blood glucose at a healthy level. Here are some general tips to do just that:

  • Follow your doctor’s dietary recommendations.
  • Take your medicine regularly as directed by your doctor.
  • Try to exercise at least 30 minutes most days. Consult with your doctor first.
  • Check and record your blood glucose each day.

Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is a team effort. But with daily care and regular dental checkups, you can have a healthy smile—and keep your diabetes under control.