How Diabetes Impacts Your Oral Health

How Diabetes Impacts Your Oral Health

Did you know that diabetes and oral health are closely connected? Those with diabetes are at a higher risk of tooth decay, gingivitis, gum recession, dry mouth, fungal infections, and more. Read on to discover how to maintain good oral hygiene when living with diabetes.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a common health condition that affects millions of people worldwide and comes in three types.

Type 1 Diabetes

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces too little insulin or none at all. Insulin is vital for letting blood sugar into our body’s cells for energy. When there’s not enough insulin, blood sugar remains trapped in the bloodstream, unable to reach the cells where it’s needed.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes typically arises when the body’s cells don’t respond well to insulin, and the pancreas has trouble making enough of this hormone. Managing Type 2 diabetes revolves around lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and, sometimes, the use of medications.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes emerges during pregnancy when the body can’t keep up with the higher insulin requirements. Although it often resolves after childbirth, proper management is essential during pregnancy to safeguard both the mother’s and the baby’s health.

The Diabetes-Oral Health Connection

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to various complications throughout the body, including the mouth and oral cavity.

Gum Disease (Periodontitis)

Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, generally known as periodontitis. High blood sugar levels impair the body’s capacity to fight microorganisms, leaving the gums more vulnerable to infection. If left untreated, this can result in redness, swelling, bleeding, and even tooth.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Diabetes can decrease saliva production, leading to a dry mouth. Saliva is essential for maintaining dental health because it removes food particles and neutralises acids created by bacteria. A dry mouth increases the likelihood of cavities and bad breath.

Thrush (Candidiasis)

People with diabetes are more prone to fungal infections in the mouth, particularly oral thrush. Candida, a type of fungus, can thrive in a high-sugar environment, leading to white or red patches in the mouth that can be painful.

Delayed Wound Healing

Diabetes can slow down the body’s healing ability, including oral wounds. This can be problematic if you require oral surgery or extractions or experience injuries to the mouth, as they may take longer to heal and be more susceptible to infection.

Altered Taste

Some individuals with diabetes report changes in their sense of taste, which can affect their appetite and dietary choices, potentially leading to further complications.

Increased Risk of Cavities

Due to a combination of factors like dry mouth, higher glucose levels in saliva, and compromised immune function, people with diabetes are more susceptible to dental cavities.

Difficulty in Wearing Dentures

Diabetes can affect the fit and comfort of dentures, making them less stable and causing irritation.

Managing Oral Health with Diabetes

While the connection between diabetes and oral health presents challenges, there are several proactive steps individuals with diabetes can take to maintain their oral health effectively:

Control Blood Sugar Levels

Maintaining blood glucose levels within a specific range is the most important step in treating diabetes’ influence on dental health. Work with your healthcare team to successfully monitor and control your diabetes.

Regular Dental Check-Ups

Dental visits should be a regular part of your diabetes management plan. Dentists can detect and address any oral health issues early, preventing more severe complications.

Good Oral Hygiene

Brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily to remove plaque and food from between your teeth.

Mouthwash and Saliva Substitutes

Use an anti-germ mouthwash to rinse and lower the number of harmful bacteria in your mouth. For dry mouth, consider using sugar-free chewing gum to stimulate saliva production.

Specialised Dental Care

Inform your dentist about your diabetes, as they may need to tailor their treatment plan to accommodate your specific needs. Some individuals with diabetes may require more frequent cleanings or specialised treatments.

Healthy Diet

Eat a well-balanced diet low in sugar and carbs to control your blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of dental cavities.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, consider quitting. Smoking exacerbates the risk of gum disease and other oral health issues, especially in individuals with diabetes.

Manage Stress

High stress levels can affect blood sugar control. To maintain a healthy balance, try stress-reduction techniques like meditation or yoga.

Stay Hydrated

Stay well-hydrated by drinking water to alleviate dry mouth and encourage saliva production.

Medication Management

Ensure you are taking your medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Some diabetes medications can affect oral health.


Diabetes affects various aspects of your health, including your oral well-being. By maintaining good blood sugar control, practising excellent oral hygiene, and having regular dental check-ups, individuals with diabetes can minimise the impact of diabetes on their oral health. Remember that your dentist and healthcare team are valuable resources to guide you in achieving optimal oral health while living with diabetes.

At Affinity Dental, we are dedicated to making dental care accessible and affordable for you and your family. When you choose one of our dental plans, you can access a vast network of over 2,000 skilled and professional dentists. Our benefits include mouth examination, scale and polish, intraoral radiographs, infection control, and more. Contact Affinity Dental for helpful advice on which dental plan best suits you and your family, and visit a network Dentist for more ways to maintain good oral hygiene when living with diabetes.

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