Diabetes and Your Dental Health 

Post Reviewed By Expert

This post was reviewed by our Director of Clinical Excellence and Oversight.

Did you know that having diabetes can also lead to complications with your teeth and gums? Doctors say that the higher the level of glucose in your blood, the higher your risk for dental problems. In fact, about 20% of all tooth loss is linked to diabetes.

Now that you know this, you’ll understand why living with diabetes also means taking good care of your pearly whites. Good oral health is definitely possible for those with diabetes, but it won’t happen on its own. It’s up to you to learn more, partner with your dentist, and practice good dental hygiene. There’s lots to “chew on” here, so let’s get started.

woman brushing her teeth

Blood Sugar 101

Diabetes affects about 30 million people—that’s one in 10 Americans! The small percentage who have type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Most people have type 2 diabetes. They make insulin, but it’s not enough to keep blood sugar at healthy levels.

For those with the condition known as insulin resistance, the problem is that cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Glucose collects in the blood and often leads to type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

diabetes word concept
A CGM Device Showing an Alert

“The closer you are to your target glucose range, the lower your chance of developing serious dental conditions.”

Open Wide

OK, getting back to the mouth. According to the American Dental Association, the number one cause of dental problems for people with diabetes is gum disease. Everyone has billions of bacteria in their mouth and most are harmless. But when certain bacteria interact with starches and sugars from food, a sticky film called plaque forms on the teeth. Letting plaque stay on the teeth can cause the gums to become red and swollen and they might bleed when a toothbrush finally does come to wash them away. This stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis, or early gum disease.

Periodontitis is a more advanced form of the disease. It can destroy the gums and other tissues that hold your teeth and bones in place, which can lead to tooth loss.

It’s important to be aware of the signs of periodontitis:

  • Red, swollen, or painful gums that bleed easily 
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth 
  • Pus between the teeth when you press the gums 
  • Difficulty chewing 
  • Constant bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth 
  • Teeth that are loose or seem to have moved 

If you think you could have gum disease, make an appointment with your dentist. Treatment might include a deep cleaning of the teeth and a special mouth rinse. Sometimes, gum disease requires surgery by a specialist known as a periodontist.

man holding his mouth in pain
We hate to sound like your mom here, but please, don’t put off your visit to the dentist! Many adults who otherwise take good care of themselves avoid dental appointments, sometimes for years. The results can be really serious, especially for people with diabetes. Small problems can worsen and result in a lasting impact on health and comfort.
dental care gums icon

“Keep an eye out for early signs of gum disease. Schedule a visit with the dentist if you see redness, bleeding, or swollen gums.”

Other Problems You Don’t Want

If you have diabetes you’re more likely to experience other dental problems like these:

  • Cavities. Plaque contains acid that attacks the surface of the teeth, which causes cavities (tooth decay).
  • Thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection that causes creamy-looking white patches usually on the tongue or inner cheeks.
  • Dry mouth. This means you don’t have enough saliva to keep the mouth and teeth moist. Dry mouth can cause tooth decay, gum disease, or thrush.

Captain Toothbrush to the Rescue!

The first step to prevent these painful, uncomfortable conditions is to keep your blood sugar under control. This means working with your care team on a plan that covers the medicine, food, and activity to keep you in your target range. The closer you are to your target, the lower your chance of developing serious dental conditions. Other important actions you should take include:

tooth brush and toothpast

Brush and floss.

Hopefully you’re covering morning and night. Try to brush after meals and snacks, too, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. At least once a day, clean between your teeth with floss or another product, like those tiny brushes or wooden plaque removers.

dental visit chair

See the dentist.

Get your professional cleanings, X-rays, and checkups twice a year, or more often if needed. Make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes and the medications you take.

dental care gums

Keep an eye on your gums.

Look out for the signs of gum disease listed above. Schedule a visit with the dentist if you see redness, bleeding, or swollen gums. The earlier you deal with it, the better.

No smoking sign

Quit smoking, and certainly don’t start.

Smoking makes gum disease worse. If you need help quitting, ask your care team or search the Internet for local programs.

HCD Helps You Manage Your Diabetes

Living with diabetes isn’t easy. There are lots of moving parts and lots of things to think about, including avoiding complications of the teeth and gums. That’s where Home Care Delivered comes in. We help lighten the load by delivering the insurance-covered medical supplies you need to manage your diabetes, including monitors, testing strips, and Continuous Glucose Monitors right to your door. You get to avoid the stores and the crowds and can rest assured that these essential products will always arrive on your doorstep each month.

Whether you’re new to HCD, or have been ordering from us for years, you’ll get the same knowledgeable service and “yes we can” attitude. It’s our mission, and our pleasure. 

 If you’d like, enter your phone number on the bottom left of the screen and one of our friendly team members will give you a call. Or, feel free to call us at 804-885-4101 and enroll today.  

customer service rep touching headset

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Unless otherwise noted, the recommendations in this document were obtained from the sources indicated. Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only. HCD cannot be held responsible for the continued accuracy of or for any errors or omissions in the information. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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