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Prevent Diabetes Problems, Keep Your Teeth And Gums Healthy

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What are diabetes problems?Too much glucose in the blood for a long time causes diabetes problems. This high blood glucose can damage many parts of the body, such as the heart, blood vessels and kidneys. Diabetes problems can be scary, but there is a lot you can do to prevent them or slow them down.

High blood glucose can cause tooth and gum problems.

Use this page to learn about tooth and gum problems caused by diabetes. You will learn the things you can do each day and during each year to stay healthy and prevent diabetes problems.
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What should I do each day to stay healthy with diabetes?

fruit Follow the healthy eating plan that you and your doctor or dietitian have worked out. Eat your meals and snacks at around the same times each day.
walk Be active a total of 30 minutes most days. Ask your doctor what activities are best for you.
meds Take your diabetes medicine at the same times each day.
check Check your blood glucose every day. Each time you check your blood glucose, write the number in your record book. Call your doctor if your numbers are too high or too low for 2 to 3 days.
feet Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, sores, swelling, redness or sore toenails.
brush Brush and floss your teeth and gums every day.
nosmoke Don't smoke.

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How can diabetes hurt my teeth and gums?

Tooth and gum problems can happen to anyone. A sticky film full of germs (also called plaque [PLAK]) builds up on your teeth. High blood glucose helps germs (bacteria) grow. Then you can get red, sore and swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. People with diabetes can have tooth and gum problems more often if their blood glucose stays high. High blood glucose can make tooth and gum problems worse. You can even lose your teeth.

Smoking makes it more likely for you to get a bad case of gum disease, especially if you have diabetes and are age 45 or older.

Red, sore and bleeding gums are the first sign of gum disease. This can lead to periodontitis (PER-ee-oh-don-TY-tis). Periodontitis is an infection in the gums and the bone that holds the teeth in place. If the infection gets worse, your gums may pull away from your teeth, making your teeth look long.

Call your dentist if you think you have problems with your teeth or gums.

Check your teeth and gums for signs of problems from diabetes.

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How do I know if I have damage to my teeth and gums?
If you have one or more of these problems, you may have tooth and gum damage from diabetes:

  • Red, sore, swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Gums pulling away from your teeth so your teeth look long
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Bad breath
  • A bite that feels different
  • Dentures (false teeth) that do not fit well

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How can I keep my teeth and gums healthy?

  • Keep your blood glucose as close to normal as possible

  • Use dental floss at least once a day. Flossing helps prevent the buildup of plaque on your teeth. Plaque can harden and grow under your gums and cause problems. Using a sawing motion, gently bring the floss between the teeth, scraping from bottom to top several times

  • Brush your teeth after each meal and snack. Use a soft toothbrush. Turn the bristles against the gum line and brush gently. Use small, circular motions. Brush the front, back, and top of each tooth

    Brush and floss your teeth and gums every day.

  • If you wear false teeth, keep them clean

  • Ask the person who cleans your teeth to show you the best way to brush and floss your teeth and gums. Ask this person about the best toothbrush and toothpaste to use

  • Call your dentist right away if you have problems with your teeth and gums

  • Call your dentist if you have red, sore, or bleeding gums; gums that are pulling away from your teeth; a sore tooth that could be infected; or soreness from your dentures

  • Get your teeth and gums cleaned and checked by your dentist twice a year

  • If your dentist tells you about a problem, take care of it right away

  • Be sure your dentist knows that you have diabetes

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking


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How can my dentist take care of my teeth and gums?

  • By cleaning and checking your teeth and gums twice a year

  • By helping you learn the best way to brush and floss your teeth and gums

  • By telling you if you have problems with your teeth or gums and what to do about them

  • By making sure your false teeth fit well

Get your teeth cleaned and checked twice a year.

Plan ahead. You may be taking a diabetes medicine that can make your blood glucose too low. This very low blood glucose is called hypoglycemia (hy-po-gly-SEE-mee-uh). If so, talk to your doctor and dentist before the visit about the best way to take care of your blood glucose during the dental work. You may need to bring some diabetes medicine and food with you to the dentist's office.

If your mouth is sore after the dental work, you might not be able to eat or chew for several hours or days. For guidance on how to adjust your normal routine while your mouth is healing, ask your doctor:

  • What foods and drinks you should have

  • How you should change your diabetes medicines

  • How often you should check your blood glucose

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For more information Diabetes Teachers (nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and other health professionals)

To find a diabetes teacher near you, call the American Association of Diabetes Educators toll-free at 1-800-TEAMUP4 (1-800-832-6874), or look on the Internet at and click on "Find an Educator."

Recognized Diabetes Education Programs (teaching programs approved by the American Diabetes Association)

To find a program near you, call toll-free at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383), or see on the Internet.


To find a dietitian near you, call the American Dietetic Association's National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics toll-free at 1-800-366-1655, or look on the Internet at and click on "Find a Dietitian."


The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is part of the National Institutes of Health. To learn more about tooth and gum problems, write or call NIDCR's information clearinghouse, the National Oral Health Information Clearinghouse (NOHIC), at 1 NOHIC Way, Bethesda, MD 20892-3500, (301) 402-7364; or see on the Internet.

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More in the Series
The "Prevent Diabetes Problems" series includes seven booklets that can help you learn more about how to prevent diabetes problems.

For free single printed copies of these booklets, call, write, fax, or e-mail:

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

1 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560

Phone: 1-800-860-8747 or (301) 654-3327
Fax: (301) 907-8906

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Acknowledgments The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse thanks the people who helped review or field-test this booklet.

American Association of Diabetes
Lynn Grieger, R.D., C.D.E.
Arlington, VT
Celia Levesque, R.N., C.D.E.
Montgomery, AL
Teresa McMahon, Pharm.D., C.D.E.
Seattle, WA
Barbara Schreiner, R.N., M.N., C.D.E.
Galveston, TX

American Diabetes Association
Phyllis Barrier, M.S., R.D., C.D.E.
Alexandria, VA
Linda Haas, Ph.C., R.N., C.D.E.
Seattle, WA
Kathleen Mahoney, M.S.N., R.N., C.D.E.
Drexel Hill, PA
Randi Kington, M.S., R.N., C.S., C.D.E.
Hartford, CT

Diabetes Research and Training Center
Albert Einstein School of Medicine
Norwalk Hospital
Norwalk, CT
Jill Ely, R.N., C.D.E.
Sam Engel, M.D.
Pam Howard, A.P.R.N.,

Diabetes Research and Training Center
Indiana University
School of Medicine
Indianapolis, IN
Madelyn Wheeler, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., C.D.E.

Diabetes Research and Training Center
VA/JDF Diabetes Research Center
Vanderbilt School of Medicine
Nashville, TN
Ok Chon Allison, M.S.N., R.N.C.S., A.N.P., C.D.E.
Barbara Backer, B.S.
James W. Pichert, Ph.D.
Alvin Powers, M.D.
Melissa E. Schweikhart
Michael B. Smith
Kathleen Wolffe, R.N.

Grady Health System
Diabetes Clinic
Atlanta, GA
Ernestine Baker, R.N., F.N.P., C.D.E.
Kris Ernst, R.N., C.D.E.
Margaret Fowke, R.D., L.D.
Kay Mann, R.N., C.D.E.

Marc Shlossman, D.D.S., M.S.
Chandler, AZ

Health Care Financing
Baltimore, MD
Jan Drass, R.N., C.D.E.

Indian Health Service
Albuquerque, NM
Ruth Bear, R.D., C.D.E.
Dorinda Bradley, R.N., C.D.E.
Terry Fisher, R.N.
Lorraine Valdez, R.N., C.D.E.

Indian Health Service
Red Lake, MN
Charmaine Branchaud, B.S.N., R.N., C.D.E.

Medlantic Research Center
Washington, DC
Resa Levetan, M.D.

Texas Diabetes Council
Texas Department of Health
Austin, TX
Luby Garza-Abijaoude, M.S., R.D., L.D.

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National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

1 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560


The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1978, the clearinghouse provides information about diabetes to people with diabetes and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. NDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about diabetes.

Publications produced by the clearinghouse are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts.

This e-text is not copyrighted. The clearinghouse encourages users of this e-pub to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.