Monitor your blood glucose levels and take medication as directed
Brush teeth twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste, especially at night
Floss teeth every day
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Visit your dentist for regular check-ups
Do not smoke
It is important to inform your dentist if you have diabetes, as it helps inform your dental treatment and how often you need to visit for a dental check-up.
If your diabetes is not correctly controlled, you can be more likely to develop oral health problems.
Symptoms can include:
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is the sixth most common disease in the world. People with diabetes can be at greater risk of developing gum disease, especially if their blood glucose is not monitored.
Among the first signs of gum disease are red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to pain, infection and eventually loss of teeth.
As your body fights the infection, gum disease can also result in higher blood glucose levels and issues with food intake, which in turn may make diabetes difficult to control.
Gingivitis: Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease, caused by poor oral hygiene and irregular plaque removal from teeth. It is characterised by swollen, red and tender gums and it can cause bleeding when brushing. By improving your oral hygiene techniques and visiting your dentist or hygienist for advice, however, it is generally possible to reverse the damage.
Mild Periodontitis: Untreated gingivitis can lead to mild periodontitis. It is typically more common in people who have a family history of gum disease, poor oral hygiene and uncontrolled diabetes. At this stage, there will be damage to the gums and bone supporting the teeth. It is essential to visit your dentist in order to prevent further progression.
Severe Periodontitis: This is the most advanced stage of gum disease, characterised by significant tissue and bone loss around the teeth. In most cases, gum disease is treatable. However, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the treatment outcome.
If diabetes is inappropriately controlled, it can affect the time the gums take to heal. Healing may be slower after having a tooth out, for example, and the risk of infection is increased. If you have diabetes and you are a smoker, the healing process will be even slower still.
If your blood sugars are high, you may notice that your mouth is dry. This could also be caused by the medication that you take. Dry mouth may increase your risk of tooth decay. If you experience a dry mouth, sip tap water frequently or try chewing sugar-free gum. Your dentist may also recommend a saliva substitute.
People with irregular blood glucose control are more likely to develop oral infections such as thrush. Thrush is a common fungal infection which can occur in the mouth, sometimes secondary to dry mouth or following a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics. It can also be triggered by wearing poorly fitting dentures.
Signs of oral thrush include white patches within the mouth, redness of the tongue and cracking of the skin at the corner of the lips.
Brush your teeth twice daily, especially last thing at night
Use a timer to make sure you brush for a full two minutes
Floss teeth once a day to remove plaque, preferably before brushing
Use a fluoride toothpaste to help keep teeth strong and prevent dental decay
Reduce frequency of sugary snacks and carbonated drinks
Spit out excess toothpaste after brushing but avoid rinsing, so that fluoride remains on your teeth
Drink plenty of water to help dilute any acid attacks caused by food or drinks
If you experience a dry mouth, sip tap water frequently or try chewing sugar-free gum
At the first sign of sore, swollen or bleeding gums, visit your dentist for advice on preventing and managing gum disease
Schedule a full dental check-up with your dentist at least once a year, or more frequently as advised