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World Diabetes Day - 14 November

November 14th, 2017

An article by Lindsay M: Lindsay’s mission is aligned with that of Public Health Corps, which is to provide reputable and useful public information on health topics.

Living with Diabetes: The Importance of Oral Health and How to Stick with Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits

Many people are aware that diabetes can negatively affect the skin, nerves, kidneys, and pancreas. But diabetes can impact nearly every major body system, including the mouth, which encompasses the teeth, gums, jaw, tongue, inside of the cheeks, and the roof and floor of the mouth. The importance of oral health in those with diabetes is twofold. First, gum disease can be more severe and take longer to heal if you have diabetes. On the flipside, having gum disease can make your blood glucose more difficult to control.


Glucose is present in everyone’s saliva. However, people with uncontrolled diabetes have abnormally high glucose levels in their saliva, helping harmful bacteria grow, which forms plaque. People who don’t practice good oral hygiene also have issues with plaque buildup. If not removed, plaque hardens into tartar, and tartar makes it more difficult to brush and clean between your teeth, leading to red and swollen gums that bleed easily – also known as gingivitis.


Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. If periodontitis is not treated, the gums, bones, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. If you’ve already suffered loss from periodontal disease, dental implants may be a safe and convenient option that yields natural-looking and natural-feeling teeth. You can chew food and clean teeth with no difficulties, maintain the structure of the bone, avoid having to file down adjacent teeth, and not worry with special denture glues.

Oral burning, thrush, and dry mouth are also common mouth issues experienced by those with diabetes. Oral burning causes a burning feeling in the mouth, dry mouth, and a bitter taste. Thrush causes painful white/red patches on your gums, tongue, cheeks, or the roof of your mouth that can turn into open sores. Besides discomfort, dry mouth can cause soreness, ulcers, infections, cracked lips, tooth decay, and problems chewing, eating, swallowing, or talking.

Controlling blood glucose levels is the key to preventing mouth issues, as people with poor blood glucose control suffer from gum disease more often and more severely than those with well-controlled levels. Properly brushing and flossing your teeth and regularly visiting your dentist are equally as important. Also, smoking worsens mouth issues, makes controlling blood glucose levels more difficult, and increases the chances of serious complications from diabetes. As such, the cessation of smoking is vital.


Getting into the practice of better dental habits is important. If you aren’t sure if you’re properly flossing or brushing, ask your dentist. You can also research online for guidelines, photos, and videos. Brush gently using circular motions along the gum line and all areas of your teeth. You should also brush over the inside of your cheeks, gums, roof of your mouth, and tongue. Don’t forget to floss every day to get rid of plaque. If plaque has hardened into tartar, visit the dentist for a cleaning.

Dentists recommend using an electric toothbrush, which makes brushing fast, easy, and fun while also being gentle on gums. You can also try a water flosser instead of traditional floss. Some people find plaque-disclosing products (chewable tablets or mouth rinse) to be helpful. These products highlight areas of buildup you miss by changing colors on the areas so you’ll know where to brush better (not harder!).

You should be brushing your teeth every morning and evening. Whether you set an alarm or bring your toothbrush with you, find a way to make it part of your routine. Also, find a way to help you brush for the proper time. You can use a timer that beeps every 30 seconds to let you know to move on to the next quadrant of your mouth, or you can try singing, listening to a song, or watching TV while you brush and floss.

Diabetes can cause serious problems for many areas of your body, including your mouth. Luckily, you can do something about it. Keeping your glucose in check and following a healthy diet are not only guidelines for diabetes treatment; these steps will also benefit your oral health. You should also follow proper oral hygiene habits, such as brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist every six months. If you fall short for any of these habits, start working on getting them to stick today.

    WMRF Heart 

Related links:

New treatment on the horizon for type 1 diabetes sufferers – From The Westmead Institute

The Effects of Diabetes on Your Body

Diabetes, Gum Disease, & Other Dental Problems

Posted In: Dental, Dental Care, Diabetes and Oral Health, Health, Oral Health

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