Diabetes affects around 7.6% of the Australian population. It’s a disease that affects the whole body – including the mouth – and people living with diabetes have to pay extra attention to their oral health, because they’re at a higher risk of problems developing.

In fact, those with irregular blood glucose levels face more chance of developing tooth decay, gum inflammation (gingivitis), gum disease, dry mouth (xerostomia), fungal infections such as oral thrush, sore and irritated mouth, ulcers, tooth loss and abscesses. In this guide, we’re going to examine the link between diabetes and three oral health conditions, and provide some tips to keep your mouth healthy for those that have diabetes.

Diabetes & gum disease

Most people will develop gum disease at some point in their life, but those with type 2 diabetes are 3 times more likely to have gum and mouth problems. That’s mostly because a sustained increase in blood sugar levels can lead to more sugar in the saliva, which breeds bacteria. This bacteria then produces acid that attacks the tooth enamel and the gums.

Another common cause is that people with suboptimal glucose levels generally have less resistance to infection, and their bodies don’t naturally heal as well.

Diabetes & tooth decay

People living with increased blood glucose levels may also have more glucose in their saliva, as well as dry mouths. While a dry mouth might not originally sound like anything of concern, these conditions allow for the build-up of plaque which can then lead to tooth decay, as well as ulcers, soreness and infections.

Cavities can be prevented with twice daily brushing and once daily flossing.

Diabetes & oral fungal infections

Oral fungal infections such as thrush (candidiasis) are caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth. Some of the conditions triggered by diabetes (such as high glucose levels in saliva, dry mouth and low resistance to infection) can be contributing factors to oral thrush.

This condition causes red or white patches inside the mouth, which can be uncomfortable and cause ulcers. Your dentist can treat this with antifungal medications, and you can reduce the risk of infection with good oral hygiene practices.

Oral hygiene tips for people with diabetes

Those with diabetes can reduce or prevent some of the oral health problems mentioned above by following these tips:

  • Maintain blood sugar levels that are as close to normal as possible.
  • Update your dentist about your diabetes at each appointment – tell them about any episodes and when you took your last dose of insulin (if applicable)
  • Consult your doctor before booking in treatment for gum disease, as you may need to take pre-surgical antibiotics or change your meal schedule
  • Have your teeth and gums checked by your dentist at least twice a year
  • Drink plenty of water and chew sugar-free gum to prevent dry mouth
  • Follow your doctor’s advice about diet and medication
  • Speak to your doctor about quitting smoking if you’re a smoker

Book an appointment at King Street Dental

If you have any further questions about optimising your oral health, contact King Street Dental. We’re welcoming new and existing patients and our dentists can provide tailored advice to minimise your risk of oral complications, even if you have diabetes. Call us on (03) 8842 4506 or [email protected].