What’s useful to know about diabetes and dental care?


With over 1.7 million diabetics in Australia, it’s important that we all know how diabetes can affect our overall health and dental health. If you have diabetes, maintaining normal blood sugar levels is just one part of your management plan. Your mouth also needs to be prioritised to reduce the risk of developing diabetes related complications.

The risk of developing oral conditions such as tooth decay, oral thrush and low levels of saliva are increased with diabetes. The type of diabetes (Type 1 insulin dependent or Type 2 diet controlled) and how well it is managed will also have an influence on these conditions. Children with Type 1 diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing tooth decay than those without diabetes.

Importantly, diabetics (Type 1 and 2) are also at risk of developing gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease). These are a group of inflammatory conditions affecting the gums and bones which surround the teeth.  Around one third of people with diabetes have severe gum disease. Research has shown that as well as high blood sugar levels increasing the likelihood of developing gum disease, once this oral disease is present, it can also negatively influence blood sugar levels. Essentially, both diabetes and gum disease are connected and effective management and treatment has a positive effect on both conditions.

Pregnant women are also at risk of developing diabetes. Gestational diabetes has been linked with periodontal disease and an increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia.



Blood glucose levels and the effect on your mouth

Though diabetics are at a greater risk of developing gum disease, especially when their blood sugar levels are unstable, this risk decreases as glucose levels reach ideal levels. Stable, well managed diabetics have the same risk of developing gum disease as non-diabetics. However, other mouth conditions such as altered taste, slow healing as well as tooth decay are more common in diabetics.

What to do after treatment of Hypoglycaemia

Drink plain water once you are feeling stable, after treating episodes of low blood sugar levels with fast-acting carbohydrates. This will help to rinse sugar and acid from your teeth and reduce the likelihood of decay. Wait an hour before brushing your teeth.

Top 5 dental health tips for diabetics

Taking care of your teeth doesn’t need to be complicated. What’s important is to maintain regular habits that support your oral health by:

  1. Seeing your dentist regularly. Gum disease is not always painful, especially in the early stages when diagnosis and treatment can save vulnerable teeth and minimise bone loss. It’s also very important that children diagnosed with diabetes are seen by a dentist on a regular basis.
  2. Brushing your teeth twice each day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Use floss or interdental brushes to clean the spaces your toothbrush can’t reach. Food left in between the gums and teeth can cause inflammation and changes in the way gum tissue attaches to teeth and bone.
  3. Eating a diet low in sugar helps to stabilise healthy blood sugar levels. Speak with your healthcare provider about ways to support your body’s diabetic needs.
  4. Drinking fluoridated tap water when you can.
  5. Avoid smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes have a direct impact on blood flow to all blood vessels, including those in the mouth.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, there is a lot that you and your dentist can do to maintain your oral health and reduce your risk of complications. Book an appointment to discuss your individual needs.