Diabetes and Your Smile

Some people with diabetes really do have a sweet tooth—or rather, a whole mouthful of them. If the sugar level is high in your blood, it’s high in your saliva too, which is a problem because sugar serves as a kind of fertilizer for all the bacteria in the mouth. Combined with food, bacteria creates plaque, a sticky film that can cause tooth decay.

older Asian man smiling

And let’s not sugar-coat it—diabetes is associated with gum disease, and gum disease can lead to tooth loss and make blood sugar rise, making diabetes harder to control. Gum disease itself can even increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

But this will help put the smile back on your face: Treating gum disease in people with type 2 diabetes can lower blood sugar over time and reduce the chance of developing other problems related to diabetes, such as heart and kidney disease.

Seize the Day

Brushing (twice a day) and flossing (once a day) are your first line of defense against tooth and gum problems. But no matter how regular you are, you may not be able to tell if you have gum disease. Twice-yearly checkups and cleanings are the best way for your dentist to spot it and treat it as soon as possible. Ask your dentist and your doctor if there’s anything else you can do to keep your mouth healthy pdf icon[PDF – 685 KB].

Your Dental Health To-Do List

  • Control your blood sugar.
  • Brush twice and floss once every day.
  • See your dentist at least once a year (more often if your doctor recommends).
  • Tell your dentist if you have diabetes.
  • If your gums are swollen or bleed easily, see your dentist right away.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking worsens gum disease.
Page last reviewed: March 1, 2019