Diabetes and your teeth: cavities, periodontitis, and gingivitis
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have become household names. And they have a serious impact on daily life. If you are living with diabetes, taking good care of your mouth is essential because good oral health is one of the keys to controlling diabetes. CHD has put together a guide to dental health and diabetes: risks, precautions, and prevention.
The basics on diabetes and oral health
- About 60 million Europeans have diabetes,
- Taking good care of your teeth can improve your blood sugar control, making it one of the keys to diabetes control,
- Periodontitis is one of the most common dental issues linked to diabetes,
- It’s important to see your dental hygienist every 3 to 6 months to help control your diabetes.
Diabetes and dental health
A high-sugar diet, inadequate tooth care, and medical conditions like diabetes can spell trouble for your mouth and teeth.
Diabetes is increasingly common – there are about 60 million people in Europe living with diabetes – and it can have a serious impact on your teeth and gums.
Research has shown that good tooth care can help control your blood sugar and prevent or reduce other complications.
Diabetes and periodontitis
Diabetes and periodontitis are two chronic diseases that can come together to create a vicious cycle if you have both of them: diabetes can make your periodontitis worse, making your diabetes even harder to control. Living with diabetes increases your risk of infection and wound healing issues, which can lead to dental problems.
Periodontitis: a complication of diabetes
Periodontitis, which you might know as gum disease, destroys the gum and bone tissue that supports one or more of your teeth. It is mainly caused by dental plaque buildup, and is usually painless in its early stages.
Getting an early diagnosis from a dental hygienist can help keep gum inflammation from spreading toward the bone that holds your teeth in place.
Diabetes triples your risk of destructive periodontitis.
How serious it is depends on how well your diabetes is controlled. Poorly controlled diabetes can cause bone loss so severe that you lose the affected tooth.
Why does diabetes cause periodontitis?
|Decreased saliva production||More dental plaque|
|Poorly controlled blood sugar means higher glucose levels in saliva||Encourages bacterial growth|
|Collagen loss in gums||Can accelerated bone destruction|
|Poor blood circulation in gums||Decreased nutrition slows healing|
How can you decrease your risk of periodontitis when living with diabetes?
A good daily tooth care routine is key to preventing periodontitis and keeping your blood sugar stable. To prevent dental complications from diabetes, we recommend:
- Brushing twice a day (morning and evening),
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush (and getting a new one every 3 months),
- Flossing or using an interdental brush daily,
- Using an alcohol-free or chlorhexidine mouthwash twice a day,
- Using artificial saliva,
- Using floss threaders, superfloss, and interdental brushes for easier cleaning under and around any bridges or implants,
- Using a casein (milk protein) based remineralizing product,
- Using an electric toothbrush,
- Using anti-tartar toothpaste for sensitive teeth or with salivary enzymes,
- Using a tongue scraper,
- Using a water flosser.
Poorly controlled diabetes increases your risk of dental problems
We often focus on gum issues like periodontitis, but diabetes combined with an inadequate tooth care routine can cause a whole range of issues:
- Burning mouth syndrome,
- An altered sense of taste,
- Lip infections like thrush,
- Frequent cavities.
Diabetes and dental issues: your hygienist is a key ally
Seeing your dental hygienist every 3 to 6 months keeps your mouth free of dental plaque and tartar. It also means you can catch any issues like cavities or gum disease early, before they get out of control. We recommend requesting short appointment slots, ideally in the morning after breakfast.
Your hygienist will enter information about your overall health, your medications, your blood sugars, and any symptoms in your patient file so they can provide personalized advice and care that meets your unique needs.
Can I still get my teeth whitened if I have diabetes?
Yes, as long as your teeth and mouth are in good shape, diabetes shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the brighter smile of your dreams. That’s why it’s key to have a dental check-up with your hygienist before starting a teeth whitening treatment.
I have diabetes and I need to have a tooth extracted. Is that risky?
Tooth extraction is a highly invasive procedure, so it’s only safe if your diabetes is well controlled. As long as that’s the case, you are not at any additional risk.
I’ve heard people talk about prophylactic antibiotics for diabetes. What’s that?
Patients with poorly controlled diabetes need to take prophylactic, or preventive, antibiotics before non-invasive dental procedures like cleanings or fillings.
Preventive antibiotics are a short course of antibiotics to keep bacteria from entering your bloodstream during the procedure. Diabetes impacts your blood and healing in your teeth and gums. That increases your risk of infection, which is why you may need preventive antibiotics.