Diabetes and gum disease: What to know

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Too much glucose, also called sugar, in your blood from diabetes can cause pain, infection, and other problems in your mouth.

Your mouth includes your teeth, your gums, your jaw, tissues such as your tongue, the roof and bottom of your mouth, and the inside of your cheeks.

Glucose is present in your saliva—the fluid in your mouth that makes it wet. When diabetes is not controlled, high glucose levels in your saliva help harmful bacteria grow.

These bacteria combine with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque. Plaque also comes from eating foods that contain sugars or starches.

Some types of plaque cause tooth decay or cavities. Other types of plaque cause gum disease and bad breath.

Gum disease can be more severe and take longer to heal if you have diabetes. In turn, having gum disease can make your blood glucose hard to control.

What happens if I have plaque?

Plaque that is not removed hardens over time into tartar and collects above your gum line.

Tartar makes it more difficult to brush and clean between your teeth. Your gums become red and swollen and bleed easily—signs of unhealthy or inflamed gums, called gingivitis.

When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to gum disease called periodontitis. In periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces, called pockets, which slowly become infected.

This infection can last a long time. Your body fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line.

Both the bacteria and your body’s response to this infection start to break down the bone and the tissue that holds the teeth in place. If periodontitis is not treated, the gums, bones, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.

Teeth may become loose and might need to be removed. If you have periodontitis, your dentist may send you to a periodontist, an expert in treating gum disease.

More symptoms of a problem in your mouth are

a sore, or an ulcer, that does not heal

dark spots or holes in your teeth

pain in your mouth, face, or a jaw that doesn’t go away

loose teeth

pain when chewing

a changed sense of taste or a bad taste in your mouth

bad breath that doesn’t go away when you brush your teeth

How will I know if I have mouth problems from diabetes?

Check your mouth for signs of problems from diabetes. If you notice any problems, see your dentist right away. Some of the first signs of gum disease are swollen tender, or bleeding gums.

Sometimes you won’t have any signs of gum disease. You may not know you have it until you have serious damage. Your best defense is to see your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.

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If you care about gum disease, please read studies about how to reverse gum disease effectively at home, and findings of the best food for tooth and gum health.

For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies about new drugs to treat diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and results showing that heavy cannabis use may decrease incidence of diabetes.

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