Diabetes and Mouth Problems
Gum disease is the most common mouth problem for people with diabetes. But diabetes also puts you at risk for other mouth problems, because it reduces your ability to fight infections and high blood sugar makes it easier for germs and bacteria to grow in your mouth.
Thrush, a type of fungal infection, is more common in people who have diabetes, especially those who smoke or wear dentures. Thrush causes white or red patches in the mouth that can feel sore or burn. Having thrush can also make it hard to swallow and affect how your food tastes.
If you have any symptoms of thrush, see your doctor or dentist. You may need to take an antifungal medication to treat it. You should also avoid smoking, maintain good blood sugar control, and if you wear dentures, remove and clean them daily.
Some people with diabetes also have dry mouth and problems with healing. A dry mouth can cause soreness and ulcers, increase your risk for cavities, and may lead to salivary gland infections. If your mouth is dry, try drinking more water or chewing sugar-free gum. You can also use a saliva substitute, which is available in most drug stores.
If you have problems with healing, it may take longer for your mouth to heal after any type of dental surgery. It can also increase your risk of infection. Be sure to let your dentist know you have diabetes.
Taking Care of Your Teeth and Gums
The good news is you can avoid many mouth problems by practicing good oral hygiene. Here’s what you can do to help avoid mouth problems with diabetes:
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control. Studies show that if your blood glucose levels are high, you are more likely to have mouth problems.
- Floss at least once a day. This will help prevent plaque from building up on your teeth. To floss correctly, use about 18 inches of floss. Slide the floss gently up and down between your teeth, then curve it around the bottom of each tooth. Ask your dentist to show you how.
- Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush at least twice a day, or after each meal and snack. Aim to brush for about three minutes.
- When brushing your teeth, tilt your toothbrush to an angle at the gums, and gently brush away from the gumline. Use small, circular movements.
- Brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth to help remove bacteria from your mouth.
- Replace your toothbrush when the bristles are worn -- usually about every 3 to 4 months.
- Ask your dentist if you should use an antimicrobial toothpaste or mouth rinse.
- Visit your dentist for a cleaning and checkup at least every six months. Depending on your oral health, your dentist may recommend more frequent visits.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking increases your risk of gum disease and infection.
- Check your mouth and gums often for any signs of a problem. If you notice any changes in your mouth, see your dentist right away.