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Diabetes and Oral Health

People with diabetes know that the disease can damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other important systems in the body. Did you know that diabetes can also cause problems in your mouth?

People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease (gum disease), an infection of the gums and bones that hold the teeth in place. Periodontal disease can lead to pain, bad breath that won't go away, chewing problems, and even tooth loss. Diabetes can also slow healing, so it can interfere with periodontal disease treatment.

Other problems that diabetes can cause include dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush that causes painful white patches in your mouth. Dry mouth results when you don't have enough saliva - the liquid that keeps your mouth wet. Dry mouth can cause pain, sores, infections and tooth decay. Smoking makes these problems worse. In addition, diabetes can also cause the sugar (glucose) in your saliva to rise. Together, these problems can lead to thrush.

Causes

If your diabetes is not controlled, you are more likely to have problems with your mouth. If you have gum disease, your blood sugar may be more difficult to control.

Symptoms

If you have diabetes, take the time to check your mouth regularly for any problems. Sometimes people notice that their gums look swollen and bleed when they brush and floss. Others notice dryness, pain, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth. These are all reasons to see a dentist.

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Therapy

Treatment depends on the problem you have. People with periodontal disease should be treated by a dentist, who can thoroughly clean your teeth or refer you to a periodontist for gum surgery. The dentist can also prescribe a special mouthwash.

To treat the symptoms of thrush, a dentist or doctor can prescribe a medicine to kill the fungus that causes thrush. You may also need a special solution to clean dentures.

If your mouth is dry, a doctor or dentist can prescribe a medicine to keep your mouth wet. See other tips for relieving dry mouth symptoms .

Helpful Hints

Good blood glucose control is key to controlling and preventing mouth problems. People with poor blood glucose control develop more frequent and more serious gum disease than people whose diabetes is well controlled. If you have diabetes, make sure you:

  • Control your blood glucose.
  • Brush twice a day and floss regularly.
  • Visit your dentist for routine checkups. Make sure to tell your dentist you have diabetes.
  • Tell your dentist if your dentures (dentures) do not fit properly or if your gums are sore.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking makes gum disease worse. Your doctor or dentist can help you quit.

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