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Diabetes is an incredibly common chronic health condition that affects 11.6% of Americans. This disease is characterized by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin, which leads to high blood sugar levels. It’s well-known that diabetes is linked to other chronic health issues like heart disease and obesity. However, what many patients don’t realize is that diabetes can also affect your oral health. It’s essential for diabetes patients to be proactive when taking care of their oral health to prevent serious issues with the teeth and gums. At Mill Dam Dental Care, we help our Virginia Beach patients with diabetes take care of their teeth and establish good oral care routines. Here’s what you need to know about the link between diabetes and oral health.

How Diabetes Affects Your Oral Health

Diabetes doesn’t just affect your body’s ability to produce insulin. Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to your white blood cells. When your white blood cells aren’t working properly, it makes it very difficult for your body to fight off infection. 

Bacteria often enter the body through the mouth. If your body doesn’t have the white blood cells to fight it off, poor oral hygiene could quickly lead to more serious health conditions. Additionally, elevated blood sugar levels could cause a number of other oral health issues. Here are some oral health issues that are more prevalent in those with diabetes.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is one of the biggest oral health problems for patients with diabetes. This is because diabetes can cause kidney problems, which ultimately reduces the amount of saliva you will produce. 

In addition to being very uncomfortable, dry mouth can cause serious oral health issues if it goes unmanaged for a long period of time. Increased friction in the mouth can lead to painful sores and ulcers, and it can also lead to severe bad breath, regardless of how much you brush your teeth. 

On top of that, a lack of saliva can make it difficult for your mouth to properly break down food particles. This leads to increased bacteria levels, which can weaken your teeth and gums. In severe cases, dry mouth could even make it difficult to speak or eat.

Gum Inflammation

Diabetes patients are also prone to increased gum inflammation. If you don’t take care of your gums properly, bacteria will build up in the mouth, which causes the gums to swell. The gums may also bleed during brushing or flossing. 
Since diabetes patients struggle with weakened white blood cells and thick blood vessels, the body has a difficult time fighting off this bacteria. This can lead to long-term periodontal disease. Periodontal disease requires ongoing treatment to prevent severe gum recession, tooth loss, and other severe oral health issues.


Some diabetes patients are prone to a fungal infection called oral thrush, which presents as white spots in your mouth and on your tongue. While thrush is easy to treat, it can be very uncomfortable. 

There are a few reasons why diabetes patients are so prone to thrush. High blood sugar levels can also lead to high levels of glucose in your saliva. The fungus that causes thrush is fueled by this excess glucose. Some diabetes patients also take antibiotics frequently to manage infections, and some antibiotics can increase your risk of developing thrush.

Difficulty Healing From Infections or Surgery

Because diabetes patients struggle with weakened white blood cells, they may struggle to heal quickly after developing an oral infection. The risk of infection is also much greater for diabetes patients who have oral surgery. They will need to be monitored closely during the recovery period to ensure that incisions heal properly.

Diabetes and Oral Health

Dental Health Care Tips for Diabetes Patients

To prevent these health problems, diabetes patients will need to be very proactive with their oral health care routine. Here’s what diabetes patients can do to keep their mouths healthy and happy.

Brush and Floss Daily

To prevent plaque and tartar from building up in the mouth and attracting bacteria, diabetes patients should brush and floss their teeth daily. At minimum, you should brush your teeth at least twice per day and floss at least once per day. However, you may need to perform these activities more often to remove stubborn food from your teeth after mealtimes. These oral health habits are important for everyone, regardless of whether or not you have diabetes

Maintain Your Blood Sugar Levels

Keeping your blood sugar levels in check can help you prevent frustrating issues like dry mouth and thrush. Work with your doctor to track your blood sugar levels and keep them in check. This could involve adjusting your diet and exercise routine as well as taking insulin injections.

Coordinate With Your Dentist and Doctor

Ideally, diabetes patients should visit both their dentist and their doctor frequently. Put your dentist and your doctor’s offices in touch so they can easily share medical records that are relevant to your condition. 

When you visit the dentist, always remind the staff that you have diabetes and let them know the status of your condition. If you’re currently on any medications, inform your dentist before starting treatment to prevent any interactions.

Quit Smoking

Smoking has a wide range of negative oral health consequences, and it can be particularly detrimental to patients with diabetes. Smoking can make both diabetes symptoms and gum inflammation worse than they already are. If you’re currently a smoker, work with your doctor to find ways to quit.

Schedule Your Appointment With Mill Dam Dental Care

If you have diabetes, now’s the time to make oral health care a priority. Seeing the dentist regularly will help you keep your teeth and gums healthy and prevent your diabetes from affecting your oral health. At Mill Dam Dental Care, we understand the connection between diabetes and oral health, so give us a call today to learn more or schedule your appointment with our Virginia Beach office.