Why Do Diabetics Suffer From Oral Health Problems Frequently?

Yes, diabetes affects oral health. But what does diabetes have to do with oral health? How to manage diabetic oral health? Let’s find out !!

By now you must be aware that diabetes and associated high blood sugar levels can damage your eyes, kidneys, heart and other crucial organs. But did you know that diabetes can affect your pearly whites too? That’s right, diabetes and oral health are more closely connected than many people expect. In this article, we take a closer look at how high blood sugar levels can affect the health of your teeth, gums and mouth, and what you can do to keep these problems away.


Why Are Diabetics More Prone To Oral Health Problems?

If you have poorly controlled blood glucose (sugar) levels, you are more likely to face problems with your teeth and gums because diabetes lowers your immunity and slows down the healing process in your cells. This can lead to frequent oral infections.

High blood sugar can also reduce the saliva produced in your mouth. A common oral manifestation of diabetes, dry mouth can result in tooth decay, enamel erosion, loss of minerals from your teeth, sensitivity, etc. Thus, diabetes and high blood sugar levels can cause several oral health issues if left unchecked.

5 Common Oral Health Problems Caused By Diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes and the associated high blood sugar levels can lead to the following problems in your mouth:

Dry Mouth 

Dry mouth in diabetes is a result of dehydration and changes to the salivary glands caused by high blood sugar levels. This can cause decreased saliva production and flow, often leading to tooth decay, difficulty in chewing and swallowing, soreness, infections, and ulcers in the mouth.

Delayed Wound Healing

In people with diabetes, wounds and sores take longer to heal. This happens because your cells require glucose to heal and repair themselves, which is not easily available in the case of a diabetic individual. This delayed healing, combined with  poor immunity, leads to the wounds in your mouth getting infected.

Tooth Decay

Your mouth contains a certain number of bacteria and other microorganisms growing in it at any given time. When you have high blood sugar levels, they can promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth. Also, dry mouth and decreased saliva production in diabetes can lead to plaque build-up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of microorganisms like bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums. This plaque build-up in your mouth can eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Periodontal (Gum) Disease 

This is an infection of the gums that could also spread to the jawbone that holds your teeth in place. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss around the world.

In the initial stages, where just your gums are affected, it is commonly known as gingivitis. If the infection progresses to your bones, it is called periodontitis. Uncontrolled diabetes and periodontitis can cause pain, bad breath, tooth loss, etc.

Fungal Infection (Thrush)

Your mouth is often a host to microbes like bacteria and yeast, which co-exist in a delicate balance. High blood sugar levels and poor immunity caused by diabetes can disrupt this balance and lead to the growth of yeast or fungus in your mouth. This can result in yeast or Candidal infections of the oral cavity.

Can Gum Disease Make It Difficult To Control Your Blood Sugar?

Research has shown that gum diseases are associated with higher blood sugar (higher Hb1Ac) levels in people with and without diabetes. Untreated dental and periodontal infections can cause your blood sugar levels to rise, which can further cause complications in diabetics.

How are Oral Diseases in Diabetes Treated?

The treatment method prescribed by your doctor will be based on your age, blood sugar levels and the dental issue you may have. The following are a few treatment options:

1. Dental Cleaning

Removing plaque, tartar or calculus (hardened plaque) from your teeth and from beneath your gums can help prevent the spread of the infection to your bones and teeth. Your dentist may also remove some of the infected gum tissues. This is done by deep cleaning, also called scaling and root planing.

2. Medicines

Your dentist may prescribe some antibiotics or antifungal medicines to help fight infections like thrush or periodontitis.

3. Surgery

In more advanced stages of the disease, your dentist may remove the decayed tooth, the infected gum tissue, or some part of the infected bone.

What Can You Do To Keep Your Mouth Healthy?

You can prevent tooth and gum problems by following these simple steps:

  • Keep your blood sugar in check by following your doctor’s advice about diet, exercise and medication.
  • Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Floss at least twice daily, and rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash.
  • Do not brush your teeth at least 30 minutes after eating to protect the enamel that might be softened by acid in the food.
  • If you wear dentures, clean them every day. Remove dentures while sleeping.
  • Dry mouth can be avoided by drinking plenty of water and chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
  • Avoid smoking, as it is linked to an increased risk of diabetes and oral diseases.
  • Get a dental checkup at least once every six months or as recommended by your dentist.
  • Ask your dentist about home care, early intervention, and regular preventive steps to maintain oral health and hygiene.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar are more prone to tooth and gum diseases.
  • Oral diseases caused by diabetes can lead to pain, persistent bad breath, difficulty chewing, bleeding gums and even tooth loss. 
  • Diabetes can also slow down healing. This can lead to frequent oral infections that may spread to your jaw bone.
  • Oral problems caused by diabetes can be prevented by keeping your blood sugar in control and by practising good dental hygiene.
  • Brushing your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush, flossing every day, avoiding smoking, cleaning your dentures daily and getting regular dental checkups can help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management Program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.

Friendly Asked Questions

Does Diabetes Cause Dental Problems?

Yes. People with uncontrolled diabetes are more prone to dental problems, such as thrush, tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, frequent infections, and dry mouth. This is caused by an imbalance of the oral microbiome, a weakened immune system and delayed wound healing, all of which are brought on by high blood sugar levels in diabetes.

How Will I Know If I Have Mouth Problems From Diabetes?

The common symptoms of oral diseases caused by diabetes are bleeding or sore gums, fungal infections, difficulty chewing or swallowing, loose teeth, or persistent bad smell from the mouth.

How Does Type 2 Diabetes Affect The Mouth?

Type 2 diabetes weakens the body’s defense against infections by weakening your immune system. It also leads to increased sugar levels in the saliva, which is optimal for bacteria and fungus to grow in the mouth. Moreover, there is reduced secretion of saliva, which makes the mouth sore and dry. All of these factors can lead to tooth decay, enamel erosion, bleeding gums and frequent oral infections. 

Does Diabetes Cause Gum Disease?

Yes. Gum diseases are more frequent and severe in people with uncontrolled blood glucose levels. This happens as they have lesser resistance to infection and lower healing capacity.

What does diabetes do to your gums?

Diabetes and high blood sugar levels make it easier for bacteria to grow in your mouth. The bacteria in your mouth and the food debris form a slimy layer on top of your teeth and gums. This layer is called dental plaque, which can harden to form calculus or tartar. This irritates the gums, and they become red, swollen, and bleed. If it is not treated in the initial stages, this infection can spread to the jaw bone, and your teeth can become loose.