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Managing Diabetes Complications: Dental and Gum Care

People with diabetes are more than twice as likely to have gum disease as people without diabetes. Both gum disease and gum infection are common complications of diabetes. In fact, nearly one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease.1 Regular dental checkups and good dental care at home can reduce dental problems.

Types of Problems

In addition to tooth decay and gum disease, you may experience these other problems that occur more often in people with diabetes:

Thrush (oral candidiasis) is a fungal infection in the mouth that causes white or red spots on the tongue. It may cause soreness or a burning sensation in the mouth and may be the result of an increase in the amount of glucose in the saliva. Your dentist may prescribe an antifungal medication for treatment.2

Dry mouth (xerostomia) can be uncomfortable and may lead to infection and tooth decay. Your dentist may recommend a saliva substitute, as well as fluoride treatments to help prevent tooth decay.

Preventing Gum Disease

Gum disease is preventable. For healthy teeth and gums, do the following:3

  • Tell your dentist you have diabetes
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss daily
  • Have regular dental exams, as often as your dentist recommends
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Keep your blood glucose under control

When to Call Your Dentist

Call your dentist if you notice any of the following:2

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
  • Loose teeth or a change in the way it feels when you bite down
  • A change in the way your dentures fit


1 American Diabetes Association. Complications of diabetes in the United States. Available at: Accessed October 16, 2008.

2 American Dental Association. Diabetes and oral health. Available at: Accessed October 16, 2008.

3 American Dental Association. Diabetes and your oral health: frequently asked questions. Available at: Accessed October 16, 2008.


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