Diabetes and oral health


Diabetes is a common disease among Australians, affecting almost 1.5 million people (around 7.6 per cent of the population). The first signs and symptoms of diabetes can occur in the mouth, so it is important to care properly for your oral health and pay attention to any signs and symptoms.

Did you know:

  • People with diabetes have a higher risk of tooth and gum problems.
  • It is important to look after your oral health and control your blood glucose levels to prevent gum disease.

If you are living with diabetes, you need to pay particular attention to your oral health and dental care, as well as controlling your blood glucose levels.

The most common oral health problems affecting people with diabetes are:

  • periodontal (gum) disease
  • gum abscesses
  • tooth decay
  • fungal infections such as thrush
  • lichen planus (an inflammatory, autoimmune skin condition)
  • mouth ulcers
  • taste disturbances
  • a dry, burning mouth (low saliva levels).

Why do people with diabetes have a greater risk of oral health problems?

  • Poor blood glucose control leads to bacteria growth (bacteria loves the sweet environment) and increases the risk of infections. Dry mouth can also occur when blood glucose levels are high.
  • Medications for diabetes, blood pressure, heart problems and anti-depressants may cause dry mouth and taste disturbance, such as a metallic taste.
  • Smokers have a much higher risk of gum disease and may also contribute to having a dry mouth.
  • Hypo treatments such as sweetened fizzy drinks and lollies can lead to tooth decay.

Diabetes and periodontal (gum) disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by an infection that destroys the bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. This bone holds your teeth into your jawbone and allows you to chew comfortably.

If left on teeth and gums, plaque hardens to form calculus or tartar. The plaque and calculus irritate the gums around teeth, so they become red, swollen and bleed. As gum disease progresses, more bone is lost. Teeth become loose and may fall out by themselves or may need to be removed.

Gum disease is more common and more severe in people with suboptimal blood glucose levels. This is because they generally have lower resistance to infection and reduced healing capacity.

It is important to look after your oral health and control your blood glucose levels to prevent gum disease. It is a two-way street. Treating gum disease helps to improve blood glucose levels in people living with diabetes, and people with optimal blood glucose levels respond very well to dental treatment.

Boulton Dental’s top tips to help prevent oral health issues:

Control blood glucose levels

Keep blood glucose levels within target -discuss with your GP

Eat well

Follow a healthy diet (if you need help with this, see your local Accredited Practicing Dietitian)

Brush and floss daily

Clean your teeth and gums twice a day with tooth paste that contains fluoride. It is also a good idea to gently brush your tongue each day to remove bacteria and keep your mouth fresh and healthy. Use dental floss every day to clean between your teeth.

Keep hydrated

Avoid a dry mouth by drinking plenty of water and chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.

Don’t smokeSmokers are up to six times more likely than non-smokers to have periodontal disease

Brush after a hypo

If you treat a hypo, it is important to brush your teeth half an hour later to remove sugar from your teeth and prevent decay and cavities.

What to do to stay healthy:

Visit your GP- they can provide you with advice and tailor a plan to suit your needs.

Visit your dentist-It is advised to visit your dentist regularly for advice about how to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Your team of health care professionals are here to support you and help you to achieve and maintain optimal health and wellness.

Other support sources:

  • Diabetes Educator
  • Accredited Practicing Dietitian
  • Quit line Tel. 13 7848 (13 QUIT)


Diabetes Australia


Better Health Channel


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