The Cleveland Clinic

Diabetes: Diabetes and Dental Problems

Introduction

People with diabetes are more vulnerable to the millions of germs that live in your mouth. As a result, people with diabetes are more likely to have infections of their gums and the bones that hold the teeth in place. Diabetes also causes a decrease in blood supply to the gums making them more susceptible to disease. In addition, high blood sugars may cause dry mouth and make gum disease worse. The decrease in saliva can cause an increase in tooth decaying bacteria and plaque build up.

What Are the Symptoms of Dental Problems?

Symptoms to watch for include bleeding and sore gums, frequent infections and bad breath.

How Can I Prevent These Dental Problems?

Taking good care of your gums and teeth is very important, especially if you have diabetes. Here are some tips:

  • Have a dental checkup every six months.
  • Tell your dentist that you have diabetes and ask him or her to show you how to take proper care of your gums and teeth.
  • Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Maintain good glucose control.

If severe gum disease develops, surgery may save your teeth. But if that's not possible, you may have to have teeth pulled to prevent the infection from destroying the bone around your teeth.

Reviewed by Certified Diabetes Educators in the Department of Patient Education and Health Information and by physicians in the Department of Endocrinology at The Cleveland Clinic .

Edited by Brunilda Nazario, MD, WebMD, October 2004

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Last Editorial Review: 5/24/2005