Diabetes and Oral Health Problems

Is there an association between gum disease and diabetes?

For the nearly one million Australians1 who have diabetes, many may be surprised to learn about an unexpected complication associated with this condition. Research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes, adding serious gum disease to the list of other complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Research suggests that people with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems such as gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease; and periodontitis, which is serious gum disease. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums.

Australia’s National Oral Health Plan states that “oral health is fundamental to overall health, well-being and quality of life.”2 Be sure to brush and floss properly and see your dentist for regular check-ups.

If I have diabetes, am I at risk for dental problems?

If your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.

Other oral problems associated with diabetes include: thrush, an infection caused by a fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.

How can I help prevent dental problems associated with diabetes?

First and foremost, control your blood glucose level. Then take good care of your teeth and gums, accompanied by regular check-ups every six months. To control thrush, a fungal infection, maintain good diabetic control by avoiding smoking; and if you wear them, remove and clean dentures daily. Good blood glucose control can also help prevent or relieve dry mouth caused by diabetes.

What can I expect at my check-up? Should I tell my dental professional about my diabetes?

People with diabetes have special needs. With your help, your dentist and hygienist are equipped to meet those needs. Keep your dentist and hygienist informed of any changes in your condition and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control.

1 Diabetes in Australia. In Diabetes Australia. (September 2010). Retrieved 26th October, 2011 from http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/Understanding-Diabetes/Diabetes-in-Australia/
2 National Advisory Committee on Oral Health. (July 2004). Healthy Mouths Healthy Lives. In Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2004-2013. 5.