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Can Diabetes Cause Gum Disease?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

It’s always important to practice good oral hygiene. When you have diabetes, however, it’s even more crucial. That’s because diabetes can potentially lead to problems with teeth and gums. Luckily, with the right oral care and communication with your dental professionals, you can take steps to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Believe it or not, your gums and diabetes are strongly linked. Having diabetes increases your risk for periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. It's also fairly common too. According to the American Dental Association, about 22% of people with diabetes have periodontal disease. Gum disease can lead to pain, bad breath, chewing difficulties, and even tooth loss because this disease is an infection of the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place. While these symptoms may seem frightening, having awareness is the first step to detecting them. That way, you can take measures and maintain a healthy smile while managing your diabetes.

What Causes Gum Disease for Those With Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects your body's ability to process sugar. When you can't control your blood sugar, increased bacteria levels may grow in your mouth, which can infect your gums. And at the same time, gum disease can also cause your blood sugar to rise, making diabetes more difficult to control, as you are both more susceptible to infections and less equipped to fight them. Luckily, controlling your blood sugar and practicing excellent oral hygiene will help your body fight bacterial infections in your mouth. We'll talk about more specific treatment plans later in the article.

Is Periodontal Disease More Common in Type One or Type Two Diabetes?

Though the CDC reports between 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, there is no definitive evidence that periodontal disease is more common in type 2 diabetes. The key is understanding that diabetes is a significant risk factor for periodontitis. In fact, periodontitis is the sixth-most frequent complication of diabetes, as reported in a 2020 article in Frontiers in Endocrinology. So, whether you're diagnosed with type one or type two, managing your diabetes, along with excellent oral care, is more important than what type of diabetes you have when it comes to gum disease.

What If I Have Inflamed Gums?

If you notice inflamed or bleeding gums, you're not alone: it's a common condition for people with diabetes. But, having inflamed or swollen gums during diabetes could be a sign of gingivitis or periodontitis. As mentioned before, it's because too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood and saliva from diabetes can cause problems in your mouth, helping harmful bacteria grow, which causes gum disease. If you have inflamed gums, you should immediately make an appointment with your dentist and alert your doctor as well. You don't have to live in pain; your team can get you the right treatment.

Prevention and Treatment of Periodontal Disease If You Have Diabetes

A lot of this information may seem disheartening, but know that managing your diabetes will exponentially decrease the symptoms of periodontal disease and get you back to smiling more confidently. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, which can decrease the progression of the disease. Get in the habit now of monitoring your gums daily for inflammation, redness, tenderness, and bleeding. Alert your dental professionals of your diabetes diagnosis to set up a treatment plan and commit to excellent daily oral care.

Here are some ways you can practice good self-care if you have diabetes and want to reduce your risk of gum disease or inflammation:

  • Keep control of your blood sugar levels: Use your diabetes-related medications as directed, eat a healthier diet, and incorporate exercise into your life. Good blood sugar control will help you fight bacterial infections in your mouth.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • If you wear dentures, clean them every day.
  • Practice excellent oral hygiene by brushing twice a day with a soft brush, cleaning between your teeth, and using an antimicrobial mouthrinse.
  • See your dental professional for regular checkups, and discuss any symptoms like bleeding or swollen gums.

What Is the Best Toothpaste for People With Diabetes?

Because there's such a strong link between diabetes and gum disease, you might wonder if you need special oral care products. You might have even noticed diabetic toothpaste advertising "no sugar" in the oral care aisle. But hold up — does toothpaste have sugar in it? Well, not exactly. Some toothpastes contain artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, sodium saccharin, or xylitol, which do not cause tooth decay like regular sugar. However, the CDC states that artificial sweeteners can spike your blood sugar levels.

Now, if you're using a pea-size amount of toothpaste twice a day, it's probably not having a huge impact on your blood sugar. Still, if you're following all the tips above and keep struggling with inflamed gums, it doesn't hurt to try out a sugar-free toothpaste. Research published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that salivary glucose levels reduced and salivary pH levels increased significantly for people with and without diabetes when using sugar-free toothpaste compared to regular toothpaste. If you're concerned about your oral care products, ask your dental professional for recommendations for the best toothpaste for diabetics.

Managing gum inflammation and diabetes can be overwhelming, but you can do it! Maintaining excellent oral care, monitoring your mouth for gum disease, and getting regular dental care will decrease gum inflammation and risk of severe periodontal disease, increasing the quality of your life—and the quality of your smile.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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