Diabetes and how it affects your mouth

Diabetes affects the whole body – Gum Disease is the lesser known complication 

What is Diabetes?

It is a metabolic disorder affecting blood sugar levels. This means; The body is unable to produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy.

It is estimated that 4.05 Million people in the UK have this disorder.

What Gum disease has to do with Diabetes

 Unfortunately being diabetic means you are much more likely to develop gum disease.

Gum disease is a result of the bacteria building up in your mouth, infecting your gums, and damaging the tissue which holds your teeth in place. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause levels of glucose to rise in the saliva and this creates a breeding ground for bacteria, increasing the risk of gum disease and dental decay.

It’s a Vicious Cycle

Managing blood sugar levels are so important to your overall health as well as your oral health. Because having high blood sugar levels can cause you to develop gum disease, in turn severe gum disease can negatively affect your chances of suffering from other long term complications of diabetes. It’s all about the balance.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

The first signs are red, swollen gums that bleed when brushing your teeth. Having bad breath could also be related.

Gum disease affects most adults in the UK at some stage in their lives, as stated earlier those who have diabetes are more susceptible to the disease, especially if blood sugar levels are high.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. The key to combating it is good oral hygiene and regular visits with your dentist and dental hygienist.

Other Common Oral Health problems affecting people with Diabetes

Poor Healing; Poorly controlled diabetes, may slow down healing and increase the risk of infection after having a tooth taken out.

Dry Mouth; If your blood sugar levels are high you may notice your mouth becoming dry. This can also be caused by medications. If you have a dry mouth it can increase the risk of tooth decay. Try sipping water frequently or chew sugar-free gum. Saliva substitutes are also available – Ask about these with your Doctor/ Dentist or Pharmacist.

Oral Infections; such as Thrush, can make your blood sugars difficult to control. That is why it’s important to try and prevent these.

Thrush is a fungal infection and appears as white or sometimes red patches in areas of the mouth.


  1. High blood sugar levels
  2. Taking Antibiotics often
  3. Poorly fitting dentures
  4. Wearing dentures all day and night may also cause infection.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Look out for;

  • Significantly increased thirst
  • Needing to urinate more often
  • Increased hunger
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

If you have been diagnosed with Diabetes you must inform your dentist of this at your next visit.

Information source: www.nhs.uk www.diabetes.co.uk 
correct as of 1.11.18