Risks to oral and overall health
Diabetes affects your health in many ways, including increasing your risk for heart
disease and stroke, kidney disease, glaucoma, and cataracts, as well as lengthening the
time it takes for wounds to heal. When poorly controlled, diabetes also increases your
risk of developing the following oral conditions.
- Gum disease (periodontal disease): inflammation and infection of the gums and
bone that surround and support the teeth. Initially, gums may be sore or bleed
when teeth are brushed. Over time, bone loss resulting in tooth loss may occur.
Untreated gum disease can also cause blood sugar to rise, making it harder to
- Dry mouth (xerostomia): occurs when the glands in the mouth don’t produce
enough saliva. Common in people with high blood sugar, dry mouth increases
plaque levels on the teeth, raising the risk of cavities.
- Oral thrush: a fungal infection caused by high sugar levels in the saliva.
- Sensation of burning in the mouth or on the tongue.
Oral health care tips
If you have diabetes, regular appointments with your dental hygienist can help you manage your blood
glucose levels and maintain good oral health. There are also many things you can do at home to
improve your oral health.
- Monitor and control your blood glucose.
- Brush twice daily, using a soft toothbrush or power toothbrush and a fluoridated
toothpaste, and clean in between your teeth daily.
- Follow a healthy diet that limits sugars, and drink water throughout the day.
- Quit smoking. Your physician or dental hygienist can offer smoking
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard mints, such as those
Tips for your dental hygiene appointment
To get the most out of your dental hygiene appointment, remember to:
- Inform your dental hygienist that you have diabetes.
- Schedule your appointment in the morning or when your glucose levels are highest.
- Know your glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) level. Your dental hygienist needs to know
if your diabetes is under control when performing oral health assessments. If you are
self-monitoring at home using a glucose meter, the value should be between 4 mmol/L
and 8 mmol/L.
- Bring a list (names and dosages) of all medications you are taking.
- Tell your dental hygienist the time of your last dose of insulin, medication or last meal.
- If you have dentures, inform your dental hygienist of any changes to their fit, as well as any pain
or sores on your gums.
Dental hygienists have the skills and training to identify signs and symptoms of undiagnosed or
uncontrolled diabetes. They will refer you to your doctor for a medical consultation and will work with
you to ensure that you enjoy optimal oral health at all times.