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Diabetes, gum disease, tooth decay, and cavities: The impact of diabetes on oral health

Diabetes can have many different impacts on oral health, including oral care. Read more about how, and the best ways to take care of your teeth and gums.

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As someone with diabetes, have you ever wondered why there’s such a focus on oral care, along with the laundry list of other preventative health checks you’re asked to maintain?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to other health conditions, including gum disease and tooth decay.

Diabetes has been linked to tooth decay due to decreased saliva flow, which decreases protection from acids in our foods.

As a result, people who have diabetes often have a greater risk for cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease than those who don’t have it.

Diabetes is hard enough on your body without the added burden of oral health issues.

Luckily there are steps you can take for better dental hygiene like brushing twice daily, flossing daily and visiting the dentist every 6 months for dental checkups.

By taking these simple steps you’ll be able to prevent gum disease and tooth decay caused by diabetes while also improving your overall oral health.

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Diabetes and oral health

Diabetes is an illness that affects the body in many different ways, and one of these consequences is oral health.

Diabetes can cause gum disease by leading to the destruction of the blood vessels that supply the gums with nutrients and oxygen.

Diabetes also has been linked to tooth decay due to decreased saliva flow, which decreases protection from acids in our foods.

As a result, people who have diabetes are often at higher risk for oral issues.

A good way to prevent this is by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist every 6 months for dental checkups.

But there’s more about why diabetes and oral care are closely linked.

One of the ways that diabetes can affect oral health is by causing gum disease

Diabetes has been linked to an increase in gingivitis and periodontal disease, which means that bacteria builds up between and around our teeth and causes inflammation and irritation.

Diabetes can cause blood vessels in the mouth to become damaged, making it harder for your gums to heal.

The decreased blood flow from blood vessels damaged by high blood sugars also makes it harder for the gums to heal, and this, in turn, can lead to a greater risk of developing periodontal disease.

Without proper protection from brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and regular dentist visits, the bacteria that cause gum disease can thrive and progressively destroy teeth.

How to prevent gum disease in people with diabetes

To avoid gum disease, people with diabetes should brush their teeth at least twice a day.

For the most efficient brushing, dentists also recommend:

  • Make sure you’re brushing for at least two minutes, as this is the time it takes to sufficiently clean the mouth.
  • Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
  • Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
  • Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.

You also want to make sure that you’re flossing, and cleaning between teeth at least once a day and avoiding sugary or acidic foods, which can damage teeth and gums.

Lastly, visit your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and checkups.

What causes cavities in people with diabetes?

Diabetes can also increase your risk for cavities Diabetes reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth, which means your mouth is more likely to be exposed to bacteria.

The bacteria that causes tooth decay thrives on sugar, so if your blood sugars run high, you’re more likely to experience tooth decay.

Factors that can increase the risk of developing cavities for people with diabetes 

Cavities can be caused by a number of different factors, and in some cases, it might not be Diabetes itself that causes the cavities. Some other factors that could increase your risk for cavities include:

What happens when you don’t take care of your oral health?

If oral care isn’t looked after, it can cause, cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis, or even tooth loss and infections.

Dental care can be expensive, so it’s important to take preventative measures, like brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings.

The bottom line

Diabetes can have many different impacts on oral health, which is why it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day and visit the dentist every 6 months for dental checkups.

Diabetes may cause gum disease by leading to the destruction of blood vessels that supply gums with nutrients and oxygen or tooth decay due to decreased saliva flow.

A couple of ways to take care of your oral health are avoiding sugary or acidic foods in addition to brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily.

You should also discuss diabetes with your dentist, and ensure you commit to regular cleanings during the year, so you can keep an eye on your oral health.

As with all things with diabetes, taking preventative measures can help you maintain your health overall. It’s important to check in with your healthcare provider early, so you can catch any problems quickly.

Sources:

Sandberg, Gun E, and Karin F Wikblad. “Oral dryness and peripheral neuropathy in subjects with type 2 diabetes.” Journal of diabetes and its complications vol. 17,4 (2003): 192-8. doi:10.1016/s1056-8727(02)00220-9

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About Mila

Hi! I'm Mila.

I’m earning my Master’s degree in Applied nutrition.

I’m a journalist and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach living with  LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, a slow-progressing form of autoimmune Type 1 diabetes) I love food, travel, and my kitchen, and teaching you about diabetes self-management.

I’m here to help you live your best life possible diabetes by showing you how to create simple, blood-sugar friendly and delicious meals and tips on diabetes self-care.

Be sure to download my FREE Diabetes Community App Glucose Guide, or reach out for FREE 1:1 diabetes health and habit coaching.

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