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Taking Care of Your Mouth

        Health | Diabetes

Having diabetes increases your risk for these mouth problems:

  • Gum disease, called periodontal disease. You are especially at risk if your blood glucose levels are not controlled. Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums and bones in the mouth. They can cause chewing problems and tooth loss and make it harder for you to keep your blood glucose under control.
  • Thrush. This mouth infection is caused by a fungus or yeast. It thrives on high glucose levels in saliva. If you smoke or wear dentures, your risk for fungal infection is even higher.
  • Dry mouth. You are especially at risk if you have undetected diabetes. It can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and tooth decay. 

Take Care of Your Mouth

  • Have regular dental checkups. See your dentist at least every six months or more often if your dentist recommends it. If you develop any problems with your teeth or gums, see your dentist immediately. If your dentist notices any problems, get them treated.
  • Let your dentist know about your diabetes and any problems you may be having with blood glucose control.
  • Keep your blood glucose within a healthy range. Follow your plan for diet, physical activity and medication. Good blood glucose control is the best protection against dental problems.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking increases the risk of gum disease. If you smoke, use the strategies outlined in this section to help you quit.
  • Brush at least twice a day. Brush using a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Use small circular motions, and avoid hard sawing motions. Gently brush the tongue.
  • Floss daily. To floss, pull out a piece of dental floss about 18 inches long. Gently pull the floss between the teeth with a sawing motion. Curve the floss around each tooth, scraping from the gum to the top of the tooth. Rinse after flossing.
  • Use stain tablets. To check how well you're brushing and flossing, use red disclosing tablets available in pharmacies. These show color on plaque left on your teeth after brushing.
  • Remove and clean dentures daily if you wear them.
  • Treat your dry mouth. Medications can often cause dry mouth. Let your doctor and your dentist know if your mouth feels dry. You may be able to use a different medication or use artificial saliva to keep your mouth moist. Drink more fluids. You can also try chewing sugar-free gum or sugar-free candy to help keep the saliva flowing.
  • Watch for early warning signs. If your gums bleed while eating or brushing, see your dentist. This may be a sign of early infection. Also, if you see patches of whitish skin in your mouth, see the dentist.

Written by Bobbie Hasselbring

Reviewed by Beth Seltzer, MD

Last updated June 2008