Diabetes and Dental Health

Diabetes and Dental Health

Taking care of your oral health is very important if you have diabetes, this is because the condition results in a greater risk of oral infection and often slows down the healing process. When seeing the dentist it’s important to learn as much as you can about handling your diabetes and dental treatment so you can work out how to avoid complications and to help maintain your oral health.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. Many individuals have blood sugar levels above normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes. This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range, your risk of developing full-blown diabetes is increased.

Diabetes and Gum Disease

Having prolonged high blood glucose levels can increase the risk of oral health problems, such as gum disease.

Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is the sixth most common disease in the world. It occurs when bacteria within the mouth begins to form into a sticky plaque which sits on the surface of the tooth, this is classified on the severity of its development. There are three stages of gum disease:

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. Luckily gingivitis is reversible, and through improving your oral hygiene techniques and visiting your dentist or hygienist for advice on a home dental health care program, you should be able to reverse this process. Untreated gingivitis can lead to mild periodontitis. The conversion of gingivitis to periodontics is 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. In order to prevent further damage a prompt visit to the dentist is required to prevent further progression. This is the most advanced stage of gum disease, characterised by significant tissue and bone loss around the teeth. Having prolonged high blood glucose levels can lead to gum disease developing or worsening more quickly, but keeping your levels within a normal range reduces the risk of infection spreading.

When your body begins to fight an infection, blood glucose levels will usually rise in response. Should the infection in your mouth become worse, you could have problems with food intake, which might affect your diabetes management. Diabetes can lead to excess cholesterol building up in the bloodstream, raising the risk of heart disease.

A number of studies have shown that people with gum disease may have a higher risk of heart disease. Bacteria and inflammation in the gums may escape into the blood system and cause blockages in the blood vessels, which reduce blood flow to the heart.
More research is being carried out to further investigate the effect of gum disease on the heart.

There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
Type 2 diabetes is where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin
However, type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

If you have Type 1 diabetes, you will need to treat the condition with insulin, whereas if you have Type 2, you may initially be able to manage your condition with diet and exercise. In some cases where individuals have type 1 diabetes, there may be an islet cell transplant available to you, and could stop you experiencing severe hypos.

Your GP can help you find the right treatment to suit you and your lifestyle. There are a number of treatments available to help you manage and control your diabetes. Everybody is different, so treatment will vary depending on your own individual needs.

Warning Signs of Diabetes

Sometimes type 2 diabetes can develop without any warnings signs. In fact, about a third of all people who have type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your risk for diabetes and determine if you should be tested.
Common warnings signs of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination or urine infections
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches

Causes of diabetes

The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. When food is digested and enters your bloodstream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it’s broken down to produce energy. However, if you have diabetes, your body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there’s either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or the insulin produced doesn’t work properly.  Although there are no lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is often linked to being overweight.

If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, it’s recommended to eat healthily, take regular exercise and carry out regular blood tests to ensure your blood glucose levels stay balanced.

Problems with teeth and gums can be more common for people with diabetes, so good dental health is important to prevent dental complications developing. Looking after your teeth and gums is an essential part of learning to live with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
People with diabetes who have poor control of their blood glucose levels are more likely to develop dental health problems. Therefore keeping your blood sugar within a normal range will reduce this risk. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and giving up smoking is also advised to lessen the risk of oral health problems.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

  • Sore or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath


If you think you may be showing signs of diabetes or gum disease, speak to Mark Tangri Dental today on 0333 1234 999.


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Why are dental check-ups essential?

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How Does Oral Health Affect Overall Health?

How to identify gum disease