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Diabetes and gum disease

Keeping your mouth, teeth and gums healthy is an important part of managing your diabetes. 

Having diabetes doesn't mean you get free NHS dental treatment, but you'll still need to book regular check-ups with your dentist or find a dentist if you don't have one. 

Because having diabetes means you’re more at risk of dental problems like gum disease, also called periodontal disease. It’s a complication of diabetes. We’ll help you understand why you’re at risk and how to keep your mouth healthy.

What’s the link between diabetes and gum disease?

Gum disease is very common and most people will get it at least once in their life. But when you have diabetes, you’re more at risk.

People with type 2 diabetes are around three times more likely to develop dental problems than people who don’t have diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are also more at risk.

One of the most common causes is having high blood sugar levels for a long period of time. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to more sugar in your saliva, and that’s the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This bacteria produces acid which attacks your tooth enamel and damages your gums. 

High blood sugar levels can also damage the blood vessels in your gums and this makes them more likely to get infected. 

And it can affect you the other way around too. Gum disease and infection can in turn increase your blood sugar levels, which can lead to other complications like heart disease.

Looking after your teeth and gums should be a basic part of how you manage your diabetes. Because you can prevent these potential complications or spot them early enough to get the right treatment from your dentist. We’ve got information on how to keep your mouth healthy – a big part of this is about regularly checking your blood sugars and trying to keep to your target range.

Types of dental problems

Mouth problems linked to your diabetes can mean:

  • tooth decay
  • gum inflammation (gingivitis)
  • infection in the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth (periodontitis)
  • dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • fungal infections (oral thrush) 
  • irritated and sore mouth, meaning you might have difficulty wearing dentures
  • tooth loss
  • abscesses.

The early signs of mouth problems are things like redness, soreness and bad breath. If you notice these, don’t ignore them and make an appointment with your dentist. Getting the right treatment early can prevent severe infections, tooth loss and other complications down the road.

How to keep your mouth healthy

Here’s what you need to think about to protect your teeth and gums:

  • Check your blood sugars – regularly check them and try to keep in your target range.
  • Brush twice a day – keep the plaque off by brushing your teeth regularly and flossing too.
  • See your dentist – having diabetes doesn’t mean you get free dental treatment but you need to book regular check-ups.
  • Choose the right food and drink – follow a healthy, balanced diet which is low in sugar.
  • Don’t smoke – smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder for you to fight a gum infection. And once you have gum disease, smoking makes it harder for your gums to heal. Get help with giving up smoking.
  • Keep your dentures clean – if you wear them, make sure you clean them regularly as a build-up of bacteria can lead to oral thrush.

Remember to talk to your diabetes healthcare team for more advice if you need it. And give our helpline a call if you’re worried about complications and need more support.


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