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Article: Diabetes and Oral Care

Diabetes and Oral Care

Diabetes and Oral Care

As November 14th is World Diabetes Day, Dr. Lisa and Dr. Vanessa offer their expert advice for looking after your oral health if you have diabetes!

Gum disease is the most common dental disease affecting those living with diabetes, affecting almost 22% of those diagnosed with diabetes.

Those who have diabetes know that it can harm the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other important systems in the body but did you know diabetes can also cause problems in your mouth? 

As we all know, everyone needs to take good care of their teeth and gums in order to prevent common oral health issues. However, a good oral care routine really is key if you have diabetes, as you are at higher risk of developing problems such as gum diseasetooth decay and other oral infections.

High blood sugar is the connection between diabetes and oral health problems. If blood sugar is poorly managed - issues with oral health are more likely to occur. This is because uncontrolled diabetes weakens white blood cells - which are the body's main protection against bacterial infections that might occur in the mouth.

Treating gum disease will help improve the regulation of blood sugar in patients with diabetes. Practicing good oral hygiene and getting professional deep cleaning done by your dentist will help lower your HbA1c (average blood sugar levels).

The Importance of "Why"

Uncontrolled blood sugar creates a perfect storm in your mouth. High glucose levels in your saliva feed harmful bacteria, leading to excess plaque buildup. Diabetes also weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight off gum infections. This combination increases your risk for decay, gum disease, and other oral health complications.


Oral health issues caused by diabetes

If your diabetes is not properly controlled, you may be more likely to develop oral health problems, symptoms include:

  • Sore or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath

  (DiabetesIreland, 2020).

If people with diabetes don’t look after their oral health, they are at risk of experiencing:

Dry mouth

Less saliva in the mouth causing it to feel dry. High levels of glucose (sugar) in your blood and low levels of saliva often lead to soreness, ulcers, infections and tooth decay. 

Gum disease

Also known as periodontists. Gum disease is the sixth most common disease in the world. Gum disease occurs when there is too much sugar in your saliva - which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This bacteria produces acid - which attacks your tooth enamel and damages your gums, causing gum disease. 


High blood sugar levels can also damage the blood vessels in your gums - and this makes them more likely to get infected. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to pain, infection and eventually loss of teeth.

People with diabetes who often take antibiotics to fight different infections are particularly vulnerable to developing fungal infections in the mouth and tongue. The fungus thrives on high levels of glucose in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes. Wearing dentures regularly can also lead to fungal infections, e.g. thrush.

People with diabetes who smoke are at an even higher risk — up to 20 times more likely than non-smokers to develop thrush and periodontal disease 

Burning mouth and/or tongue - caused by the presence of thrush.

Diabetes & Healing

It's natural to worry about healing after dental work if you have diabetes. The good news is, with good blood sugar control, your body can heal just as well as someone without diabetes. Be sure to tell your dentist about your diabetes diagnosis, so they can take any necessary precautions and monitor your healing closely.

Dr. Lisa and Vanessa’s top tips for better oral health

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels: Keep your blood sugar levels as close to your target range as possible to reduce inflammation and boost your body's ability to fight gum infections.
  • Floss daily: Floss daily to remove plaque and food debris from between your teeth, where your toothbrush can't reach.  This prevents decay and the gum inflammation that diabetes makes you prone to.
  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste: Fluoride strengthens your enamel, making your teeth more resistant to decay caused by high saliva sugar levels.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush: Protect your sensitive gums by using a soft-bristled toothbrush.  Choose a sonic toothbrush for an even gentler, yet thorough, clean.
  • Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly: Regular check-ups and cleanings allow your dentist to catch any problems early when they're easiest to treat, and help you maintain excellent oral health.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet: Limit sugary foods and drinks that can fuel bacteria in your mouth and worsen blood sugar control. Choose plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Do not smoke: Smoking drastically increases your risk of severe gum disease and tooth loss, especially if you have diabetes. Your dentist can offer support and resources to help you quit.
  • Clean your dentures: If you wear dentures, remove them at night and clean them thoroughly to prevent fungal infections like thrush, which thrive in high-glucose environments.

Managing diabetes means taking care of your entire body, and that includes your smile!  By prioritising your oral health with these simple steps, you'll enjoy better overall health and protect yourself from the complications diabetes can cause in your mouth.

Taking excellent care of your smile is even more important when managing diabetes. Explore Spotlight Oral Care's range of products specifically formulated to protect your teeth and gums, including toothpastes with clinically proven active ingredients and gentle sonic toothbrushes.