a senior woman examines her gums and teeth in a mirror while brushing

Does Diabetes Cause Gum Problems? Or Do Gum Problems Cause Diabetes?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Thoughtful, balanced habits are essential for anyone seeking to live a long, healthy life. And if you have diabetes, that means it's even more vital that you take active measures to care for your wellbeing – with some extra love and attention given to protecting your mouth from gum problems. But did you know that, conversely, if you don't have diabetes, gum problems can raise your blood sugar and increase your risk of contracting diabetes, too? If you want to learn more about the link between these conditions and you're looking for tips on proper oral care, we'll give you some facts and advice that will help you maintain a healthy smile.

What Is Diabetes?

There are various types of diabetes, but they all have one thing in common: increasing the risk of having too much sugar in your bloodstream. And that can lead to serious health problems.

The American 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report says that about 34.2 million people in the US have diabetes. That's 10.5 percent of the population. And more than 1/5 of adults with diabetes don't know they have it.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is an infection that causes inflammation of the gums. If untreated, the condition can affect the tissue and bone that support your teeth, causing them to loosen or even fall out.

How Does Diabetes Increase the Risk of Gum Disease?

If you have diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing gum disease, because:

  • Diabetes weakens white blood cells.
    These tiny cells are your body's best defence against infections in your mouth.
  • Diabetes causes dry mouth.
    Saliva is essential for washing away food particles, germs, and neutralising tooth-decaying acids.
  • Diabetes causes blood vessels to thicken.
    Blood vessels are responsible for carrying nutrients to tissues in your body and your mouth. The thickening of the vessels slows this process.

Smoking, Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

If you have diabetes and smoke, you are up to 20 times more likely than non-smokers to develop periodontal disease. Quitting is the only way to lessen that risk.

Thankfully, if you work to control your blood sugar levels and practise good oral hygiene, you can protect against these oral health problems.

How Does Gum Disease Increase the Risk of Diabetes?

Gum disease may raise your blood sugar levels and increase your risk of contracting diabetes. And if you already have diabetes, the increase in glucose that comes with gum disease could make your condition harder to control. While each of these conditions may exacerbate the risks of the other, there's still a lot that you can do to prevent and manage both diabetes and gum disease.

Whether or not you have diabetes, it's essential that you practise good oral hygiene, eat a healthy diet, and stay active to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to brush at least twice a day, and don't forget to brush your tongue. Consider using helpful products like an antimicrobial mouthrinse and tongue scrapers. And be sure to see your dental professional for regular appointments – not only to keep your teeth pearly white, but also to check on the health of your gums.

Talk to your doctor and your dental professional about recommendations for a nutritious diet that includes fresh veggies and whole grains. By nourishing your teeth and gums, and controlling your blood sugar levels, you'll be better able to manage the risks associated with both conditions.

And remember, when you take care of your health and oral hygiene, you can take on anything.

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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