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Diabetes Patients Should Pay Close Attention to Oral Health

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If you have diabetes, keeping your glucose level within a healthy range and regular dental checkups are key to managing your oral health.

Diabetes can lower the body's resistance to infection and slow the healing process. These changes affect your teeth and gums. A common oral health problem associated with diabetes is periodontal disease.

High glucose levels in saliva help plaque thrive on your teeth. Plaque is a film of bacteria that develops within hours of eating and releases acids that cause tooth decay. Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar. When tartar collects above the gumline, brushing and cleaning between teeth becomes more difficult.

Diabetes can also reduce the body's resistance to infection, which can affect gums. An infection of the gum tissues can lead to periodontal disease — chronic inflammation and infection of the gums. Because diabetes may compromise or impair the healing process, periodontal abscesses can develop.

If you notice any of the following warning signs of periodontal disease, see your dentist immediately:

  • Gums that bleed easily

  • Red, swollen or tender gums

  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth

  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste

  • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating

It's also possible to have periodontal disease and not have these warning signs or have different symptoms. That's why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are so important.

Eating a healthy diet, taking insulin or oral medications as your doctor directs and advising your dentist about your condition will help you successfully manage the oral complications of diabetes.

© 2003 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

NIH Publication No. 00-4280

Copyright © 2002, 2003 Colgate-Palmolive Company. All rights reserved.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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