Signs Of Diabetes In Your Mouth And How To Prevent Them

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Today (November 14) is World Diabetes Day. So, we spoke to an oral hygiene expert, Amanda Sheehan, from TePe about the signs of diabetes you can find in your mouth. Plus, lots of advice on how to prevent them and keep your gums healthy.

Ensuring healthy teeth and gums is extremely important for people living with diabetes, with research suggesting a two-way relationship between diabetes and gum disease. In fact, those with type 2 diabetes are three times more likely than someone without diabetes to develop dental issues.

Diabetes is a condition where the body is not able to control blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can result in more sugar in your saliva, which makes it easier for bacteria to multiply. In addition to plaque, these bacteria can produce acid which attacks the gums and tooth enamel. High blood sugar can lead to damage to the blood vessels, including the blood vessels in your gums.

People with diabetes are more prone to infections because of the effect of high blood sugar on the immune system. Keeping blood sugar tightly controlled can reduce these risks – but so can good oral health.

Added to this, people with diabetes often take medication with side effects that can cause a dry mouth (xerostomia). Having less saliva will have a detrimental effect on a patient’s oral condition because of the saliva’s protecting and cleansing abilities, increasing the chances of gum disease and tooth decay.

With over 4.9 million people in the UK living with diabetes, here, Amanda Sheehan, Dental Therapist for leading oral hygiene Brand TePe, outlines the warning signs of diabetes that may appear in the mouth and shares her expert advice to keep your oral health in check.

Symptoms and signs of diabetes in the mouth

When you visit the dentist, they will check for signs and symptoms of problems from diabetes in the mouth, including:

  • Gums that are red, swollen or bleeding
  • Receding gums
  • Gums pulling away from your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Increasing spaces between the teeth
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath that doesn’t go away when you brush your teeth

However, as many of these symptoms can indicate other conditions, it is important to be aware of the additional symptoms of diabetes.

According to Diabetes UK, these include increased thirst, going for a wee a lot, feeling more tired than usual, unexplained weight loss, genital itching or thrush, cuts and wounds taking longer to heal, increased hunger and blurred eyesight.

Oral health issues associated with diabetes

Gum disease (gingivitis) is the most common oral health issue related to diabetes. Gingivitis develops when plaque and tartar build up on your teeth near your gum line, irritating and inflaming your gums. As a result, your gums may become red and swollen, and may bleed easily. If left untreated, gum disease can progress to periodontitis and ultimately lead to tooth loss.

Periodontitis and diabetes are closely linked; people with periodontitis are more likely to develop diabetes and vice versa. Evidence shows that severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (and in those who do not have diabetes), and that diabetes can increase the prevalence and severity of gum disease.

If found early by your dental practitioner, periodontitis is easy to diagnose and control and early treatment may reduce the risk of diabetes.

Diabetes can also increase the risk of conditions such as thrush, burning mouth syndrome and changes in the way food and drinks taste.

Top tips to prevent gum disease

It is important to visit a dentist, so that they can keep an eye on your oral health and spot any dental issues that may be appearing. Gum disease and other ailments are easier to treat when they are detected early.

If you have diabetes, you should let your dentist know so that they can give tailored advice to your needs. You should also ask the dentist to check your gums and for a demonstration of how best to brush and clean in between your teeth.

Work can also be done at home to make sure your oral health is in its best possible condition:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between the gaps in your teeth at least once a day.
  • Find an interdental cleaning tool that works for you. Use dental floss if you have tight spaces between your teeth, or TePe Interdental Brushes if the gaps are wider.
  • Always go to bed with clean teeth – the production of saliva is reduced at night, which lowers the saliva’s capacity to protect your teeth.
  • Change your toothbrush regularly, at least every three months.
  • Use a tongue cleaner to remove plaque build-up from the surface of your tongue.

For tips, advice, and products to help look after your oral health visit:

Read more Health advice from the “Friend”.

Jacqueline Munro

Jacqueline is the Digital Content Editor at "The People's Friend", looking after our website, social media channels and podcast.