Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes and Oral Health

Diabetes that is not properly controlled can lead to periodontal (gum) diseases in all age groups. Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place.

Diabetes and periodontal (gum) diseases

Because of blood vessel changes that occur with diabetes, the thickened blood vessels can impair the efficiency of the flow of nutrients and removal of wastes from body tissues. This impaired blood flow can weaken the gums and bone, making them more susceptible to infection.

In addition, if diabetes is poorly controlled, higher glucose levels in the mouth fluids will encourage the growth of bacteria that can cause gum disease. On the other hand, uncontrolled periodontal disease may make it more difficult to control the diabetes.

A third factor, smoking, is harmful to oral health even for people without diabetes. However, a person with diabetes who smokes is at a much greater risk for gum disease than a person who does not have diabetes.

Paired with poor oral hygiene, diabetes can lead to gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease, or to periodontitis, severe gum disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease?

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of gum disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Signs and symptoms may include:

The signs and symptoms of gum disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a dentist or other oral health specialist for a diagnosis.

What are the different types of periodontal disease?

The different types of periodontal disease are often classified by the stage the disease has advanced to at the time of evaluation, including:

Treatment for periodontal disease

Specific treatment for periodontal disease will be determined by your dentist based on:

Treatment may include any, or a combination of, the following:

Diabetes and other oral problems

Diabetes can also cause other oral problems, including:

Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Treatment for dry mouth depends on the cause of the condition. Dry mouth can be caused by medication, disease, cancer treatment, other salivary gland damage, and nerve damage. Some tips to prevent dry mouth symptoms include:

Preventing periodontal disease and other oral problems

Proper care of your teeth and gums can go a long way in preventing the onset of oral problems associated with diabetes. The following toothbrushing and flossing tips are recommended by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research:

Brushing
  • Brush twice daily with a soft, nylon brush with rounded bristles and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use small circular motions and short back-and-forth motions (avoid hard back-and-forth motions).
  • Brush the tongue frequently.
Flossing
  • Dental floss should be about 18 inches long with each use.
  • Do not use a "sawing" motion in between the teeth.
  • Curve the floss around each tooth and scrape up and down several times, from below the gum to the top of the tooth.
  • Rinse after flossing.

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