Research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes. People with diabetes are at special risk for periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place. Periodontal disease can lead to painful chewing difficulties and even tooth loss.

Periodontitis

The more severe form of gum disease is called periodontitis. At this stage of gum disease, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth. Pockets form between the teeth and gums and then fill with germs and pus. If periodontics is ignored, the infection goes on to destroy the bone around the teeth, causing them to fall out.

Signs of Gum Disease

Some of the possible signs of gingivitis and/or serious gum disease include:

• Bleeding and red, swollen, or tender gums
• Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
• Pus between the teeth and gums (when you press on the gums)
• Bad breath
• Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other
• Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
• Changes in the fit of partial dentures or bridges

Good Oral Health Habits

A person with diabetes should:

  • Have a dental checkup every six months, or as often as indicated by a professional

  • Tell the dentist or hygienist that you have diabetes and any other medical condition

  • Brush for two minutes a day with a toothpaste with an antigingival/antibacterial ingredient to help prevent gingivitis

Contact a dentist or hygienist if these signs of gum disease occur:

  • Gums that bleed or are red, puffy or swollen,or sore

  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth

  • Changes in the way the teeth fit together when you bite

  • Pus that appears between the teeth and gums

  • Constant bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth

Avoiding Diabetes-Related Oral Issues

Good blood glucose control is key to controlling and preventing mouth problems. People with poor blood glucose control get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled. Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups and good blood glucose control are the best defense against the oral complications of diabetes.

If your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.


The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) is an information dissemination service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).