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Diabetes and Gum Disease: Managing Your Oral Health

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

The combination of diabetes and gum disease can have a serious, negative impact on your health. It does not, however, have to be that way; if appropriate action is taken in a timely manner, the early stages of gum disease are treatable. You also have some strong allies in the fight to save your teeth and oral health: quality dental care products, effective dental care procedures and your dentist.

Cause and Effect

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is connected to gum disease because elevated blood glucose levels make it harder for your body to fight off infection, which can lead to gum disease and lost teeth. Diabetics have a decreased ability to fight off infection once it begins, leaving the body and oral cavity more vulnerable to bacterial infection.

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, and sufferers typically experience symptoms such as red gums, swollen gums, light bleeding when brushing or flossing and bad breath. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis sufferers develop pockets of infection between gums and teeth, and this is where it gets really serious for diabetics because diabetes slows the healing process. Untreated periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and serious infection.

The infection from gum disease can cause diabetics to suffer from dry mouth.

Solutions for Diabetes and Gum Disease

Many of the same strategies and tools diabetics use to regulate blood sugar levels can also keep gum disease at bay. First priorities are controlling glucose levels and practicing proper dental care. Here are some tips:

  • If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Eat healthily, including plenty of fresh vegetables and whole grains in your diet.
  • Keep your dentist and hygienist in the loop about your condition.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Practice daily oral care, including brushing and flossing.
  • If you experience bleeding during daily care or if you have an odd taste in your mouth, report it to your dentist right away.
  • Keep up-to-date on your semiannual dental checkups.
  • If you wear dentures, properly clean them in order to keep the gums healthy and germ-free.