Improve Your Oral Health During American Diabetes Month

The word "diabetes" spelled out in scrabble tiles on a bed of white sugar. There is a spoon holding sugar that is lying on top of the first "e" of the word.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 100 million people living in the U.S. have either diabetes or prediabetes. This is a condition that can greatly affect your overall health and can worsen your oral health. Diabetes is linked to increasing your risk for gum disease, as your body is not able to fight off infection as easy—such as in the gum pockets—with this condition. Use these tips to reduce your risk for gum disease and other oral health diseases no matter if you have diabetes or not!


What Is Diabetes?

The American Diabetes Association reports that diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death for people in the United States. Diabetes is a serious condition that can shorten your lifespan once you have it. Sometimes, this condition is caused by genetics, but at an increasing rate, people are getting the condition because of their lifestyle habits. Your body has processes to turn all of your food either into energy your body uses or it breaks down your nutrients to build new cells.


Protein, sugar and carbs are all used as energy in the body. Your blood sugar is also known as “blood glucose” and it helps to break down your sugars and carbs into energy. However, it needs the help of insulin to move glucose out of your blood and into your cells. Then your sugars from pure sugar or carbs can be used as energy. With diabetes, your body becomes insulin resistant, meaning your insulin doesn’t move sugars (glucose) out of your blood to be used by the body. That causes tons of glucose to stick around in your blood, which can lead to severe responses in your body that can make you faint and physically ill. You can die if that blood sugar isn’t controlled, which is why this condition is so serious.


Close-up side view of a woman brushing her teeth.

How Does Diabetes Affect Oral Health?

Diabetes can damage your body anywhere that blood flows, which is everywhere. It damages blood vessels and messes with circulation. This is why people with diabetes are much more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Your gums and teeth rely on healthy blood vessels to stay healthy. Blood nourishes your gums and they receive nutrients from the blood. Inside every one of your teeth is a soft, pulpy center that houses nerves of the tooth and blood vessels. Those blood vessels nourish your tooth to help it stay healthy from the inside out.


You have to do your part to keep the outside of the teeth healthy from plaque, sugars, acids and other substances that would damage them. If you don’t, those substances can decay the teeth from the outside in. Diabetes is a tricky disease because there are countless health problems that can happen. With the mouth alone, you can have oral health problems such as:

  • Dry mouth caused from reduced saliva production. When you don’t have enough saliva, you can develop chronic bad breath. Your teeth also aren’t bathed in saliva, which helps neutralize acids that come in contact with your teeth. Saliva is critical for remineralization of teeth as well.
  • Inflamed gums that are red, puffy and may bleed often.
  • A high risk for gingivitis and gum disease because of that inflammation. Gum disease can easily lead to tooth loss if it’s not under control.
  • Difficulty tasting foods.
  • More frequent infections in the mouth with a reduced ability to fight off the infections, which is why oral health diseases can happen at a higher rate.
  • Delayed wound healing, especially after dental work or dental injuries.


Oral hygiene products such as blue mouthwash, a toothbrush, an electric toothbrush, flossers and regular floss.

Improve Your Oral Health with Diabetes

The American Dental Association reports that there are more than 29 million Americans with diagnosed diabetes. However, there can be as many as 70 million people in the U.S. that are in a pre-diabetic stage, meaning they are at risk for the disease. That risk comes from genetics and especially the food that is going in the mouth. Anything you put in your mouth can carry bacteria. Sugars in your food also mix with bacteria present in the mouth to create plaque. That acidic plaque not only sticks hard to the teeth, but it decays them. This leads to tooth decay and gum disease, both of which can lead to tooth loss.


You can’t fight off bad bacteria as well with diabetes. Bacteria and plaque can collect along your gum line, getting into your gum pockets to cause infection. You have to fight back even harder than others do to prevent that from happening. That means you take the recommended oral hygiene guidelines and you do them even more. If you don’t want tooth loss with all the other problems diabetes brings, you must also control your blood sugars as best as possible. This will prevent blood vessel damage and will keep nutrients going to your gums and teeth. Avoid acidic foods and drinks and too many sugary treats.


Better Oral Health Every Day

The ADA recommends that all patients brush their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time. Floss at least 1-2 times, use mouthwash to kill bacteria and germs, and use fluoride products to strengthen your teeth. When flossing, make sure you go up into your gum line and scrape your teeth as you go. This removes plaque that would get bacteria into your gum pockets.


Avoid smoking, tobacco products, and alcohol, as all of these damage gum tissue and tooth enamel. If you have diabetes, keep it controlled and see a dentist more frequently to avoid diabetic oral health problems. If you are diabetic or prediabetic, receive your comprehensive exam by calling Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies at (970) 223-8425!