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Diabetes and its effect on oral health

If you or someone you love is one of the more than 15 million Americans affected by diabetes, you might want to observe American Diabetes Month in November by double-checking and protecting your oral health.

Oral health problems can be more serious when you have diabetes, including tooth decay; gum disease; infection and delayed healing; salivary gland dysfunction; fungal infections; taste impairment; and more.

High glucose levels in your saliva can help bacteria thrive, so be sure to brush and floss regularly. Once plaque has accumulated on your teeth and gum line, it can cause chronic inflammation and infection in your mouth, so you need to have regular cleanings and checkups.

See your dentist if you notice that your gums bleed easily, are swollen, tender or red, are pulling away from your teeth; if there is pus between your teeth and gums or if you have persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth; if you have permanent teeth that are loose or separating or if there is a change in your bite or the way your dentures fit.

Patients with diabetes are also susceptible to fungal infections in the mouth because they may have diminished salivary flow and increased salivary glucose levels. If you smoke, have high blood glucose levels or take antibiotics, you are even more prone to fungal infections. Alert your dentist if you have red or white patches in your mouth or on your tongue that are sore or ulcerated. Fungal infections may also cause a burning sensation in the mouth or difficulty in swallowing or tasting.

For a patient guide to diabetes and oral health, visit the American Dental Association Web site at "" and click on the "Diabetes and Oral Health" link. There are also frequently asked questions to help you monitor your oral health.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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