Diabetes & Oral Health

A healthy mouth and a beautiful pleasing smile are important for everyone, but people with blood sugar may find it more challenging to maintain the same.

High blood sugar affects several parts of the human body, the eyes, nerves, heart, kidneys and feet to name a few. Likewise, it also has profound effects on gums and teeth.

A cursory examination of the mouth by a dentist can help identify an individual who is very likely to be diabetic, and hence an astute dentist may be the first person to refer a patient to the physician to diagnose the same.

Diabetes & Oral Health

How Does Diabetes Affect the Mouth?

Gum Inflammation

This is the most common problem associated with diabetes. Healthy gums are pink in colour, firmly attached to the teeth and jaw bones. In individuals with high blood sugar, the gums are red and have a tendency to bleed easily. This is commonly noticed as a streak of blood when spitting out toothpaste after brushing.


This is spread of gum disease to involve the bone in which the teeth are supported. This commonly occurs when gum disease has not been treated, and hence the disease has progressed and spread to the supporting bone. The teeth are likely to be mobile or loosened, and gums may be associated with pus discharge.

Dry Mouth

Diabetic patients may suffer from dryness of mouth due to poor salivary secretion, changes in salivary composition and/or due to effects of medications. This causes difficulty in wearing dentures, bad breath and also higher chances of tooth decay.

Poor Wound Healing

People with uncontrolled diabetes are more likely to suffer from slow healing following tooth extractions. Chances of infections are also higher in these individuals.

Bad Breath

This is a common problem associated with poor oral health. High blood sugar causes chemical changes in saliva, also decreased saliva results in poor oral hygiene due to reduced washing capacity of saliva. Very high blood sugar may present as a fruity odour in the mouth indicative of a risky condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Fungal Infection/Candidiasis

This is usually seen on the tongue and appears as a curdy white patch which can be easily scrapped off. This is usually treated with a topical anti-fungal paint or a lozenge.

People with high blood sugar and who smoke are 20 times more likely to suffer from gum disease than those who do not smoke.

What Can I Do to Maintain Oral Health?

Maintain Good Blood Sugar Level

Good maintenance of blood sugar with periodic follow up check-ups with a diabetologist help to maintain overall oral health. Be regular with diabetic medications, monitor blood glucose at periodic intervals as recommended by the physician.

Brush Twice Daily

Brushing with a soft tooth brush in the morning and at bed time helps to maintain good oral health.

Dental Check-Up

Once in 6 months, meet up with your dentist for a consultation. Usually, a scaling is advised once every 6 months to keep gums healthy and to remove plaque and tartar.

Drug History

Share with your dentist the entire list of medicines taken by you. Also, share your diabetologist's name and number, as this information will be useful in case there is any concern during dental treatment.

Post-Surgical Instructions

Healing takes longer and chances of infections are higher in high blood sugar patients. Follow meticulously post-surgical instructions given by the dentist. These are usually handed over as printouts for easy recall.

Maintain Denture Hygiene

Leave out dentures at bed time to allow your mouth tissues to rest. Clean dentures using denture cleaning brush. Several over-the-counter denture cleansing tablets are available, which can be used once a week to prevent scales that may form on dentures.

Knowledge is power and self-awareness is the key to maintain good oral health. Being meticulous about regular dental check-ups with periodic treatment interventions if any goes a long way in sustaining good oral health.

Dr. Preeti L. Anand

Dr. Preeti L. Anand
Senior Dental Surgeon & Implantologist
Kauvery Hospital Chennai


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