Dental Problems in Diabetics

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According to the CDC, just over 11% of Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, while 38% of American adults have prediabetes. With statistics like that, there is a good chance that you, or someone you know has been affected by this condition.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body uses blood sugar. It also affects other parts of the body. A common symptom of diabetes are teeth and gum problems. Gum disease is a common problem among diabetics, and it can be serious if it isn’t taken care of.

What is Diabetes?

There are 3 types of diabetes, and they all affect the body’s blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar in the blood to be used for energy or stored. But with diabetes, the body is not able to make enough insulin or the insulin it makes cannot be effectively used.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that usually appears in childhood or adolescence. This type of diabetes means that the pancreas makes little, or even no insulin. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes must monitor their blood sugar often, partake in insulin therapy, and adjust their diet.

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes. While the exact cause is unknown, it is thought to be mostly genetic.

If not taken care of, type 1 diabetes can severely affect other organs in the body. Heart, kidneys, eyes, feet, teeth, and gum problems are complications that may arise in diabetics.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this disease. People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance, meaning that their body is not able to use insulin properly.

Middle age or older people are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, however, children can also get it due to childhood obesity. While with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin, people with type 2 do make insulin. However, their cells cannot use it as well as they should.

Treatment for type 2 diabetes is usually lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, diet, and exercise. If this does not help regulate blood sugar levels, medication may be needed.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during preganancy. Similar to the other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar. If the mother’s blood sugar levels are not properly managed, there could be complications for both the mother and baby.

Depending on how severe the diabetes is, it can sometimes be managed with diet and exercise. However, in some cases, insulin or other medications may be necessary. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after birth, but it does increase the chances of developing diabetes later in life.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Symptoms for all types of diabetes are similar. With type 1 diabetes, the symptoms are stronger and will happen quickly. For type 2 diabetes, the symptoms tend to be more mild.

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Skin itchiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain or numbness in feet and legs
  • Slow healing cuts
  • Nausea
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Painful, inflamed, or bleeding gums

Diabetes Teeth and Gum Problems

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing teeth and gum problems. In fact, according to the American Dental Association, 1 in 5 cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes. Nearly 22% of people with diabetes also have gum disease.

The reason is because people with diabetes have more sugar in their saliva. And bacteria loves sugar. When that bacteria eats the sugar, it turns into an acid that damages teeth and gums.

Eventually plaque build up forms, then tooth decay and gum disease. If gum disease is not taken care of, the bones and tissues in the mouth will get damaged, leading to tooth loss.

Diabetes also causes dry mouth due to a lack of saliva. While a diabetics saliva contains sugar, it also has enzymes that kill bacteria. If the mouth is not producing enough saliva, the bacteria has a chance to grow rapidly.

Wounds heal slowly for diabetics, and that is especially true for diabetes teeth and gum problems. Dry mouth can sometimes cause sores and ulcers in the mouth, and this can take a long time time to heal. The slow healing time also increases the risk of infection.

Preventing Dental Problems in Diabetics

Because having diabetes increases the risk of teeth and gum problems, it is important to take care of your oral health to prevent any future issues.

  • Brush twice a day
  • Use a soft bristled toothbrush
  • Floss daily
  • Avoid smoking
  • Keep blood sugar levels under control
  • Clean denture or partial daily
  • Do not sleep in dentures
  • Get a dental check up every 4-6 months


Diabetics have an increased risk of oral health issues. Diabetes teeth and gum problems are caused by excess sugar in the saliva, as well as not enough saliva being produced. This causes bacteria to form in the mouth, which leads to gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.