More on the Mouth

The most common problem affecting gums and teeth for people with diabetes is gum disease. But diabetes also makes you prone to other mouth problems.

Oral Infections

An oral infection is a cluster of germs causing problems in one area of your mouth. Here are some warning signs.

  • Swelling or pus around your teeth or gums or any place in your mouth. Swelling can be large, or as small as a pimple.
  • Pain in the mouth or sinus area that doesn't go away.
  • White or red patches on your gums, tongue, cheeks or the roof of your mouth.
  • Pain when chewing.
  • Teeth that hurt when you eat something cold, hot or sweet, or when you chew.
  • Dark spots or holes in your teeth.

Infections can make your blood sugar hard to control. By planning ahead and discussing a plan of action with your dentist and doctor, you will be prepared to handle needed adjustments.

Fungal Infections

Having diabetes means you are more prone to fungal infections such as thrush. If you tend to have high blood sugar levels or take antibiotics often, you are even more likely to have this problem. Thrush makes white (or sometimes red) patches in areas of your mouth. These can get sore or turn into ulcers.

Thrush likes moist spots that may be chafed or sore, for example, under poorly fitting dentures. Smoking and wearing dentures all day and night can increase the risk of thrush. Quitting smoking and limiting the time dentures are worn can reduce the risk of getting thrush. If you think you have a fungal infection, talk to your dentist or doctor.

Poor Healing

If your diabetes is poorly controlled, you heal more slowly and you increase your chance of infection after dental surgery. To give yourself the best shot at healing well, keep your blood sugar under control before, during, and after surgery.

Dry Mouth

Some people with diabetes complain of dry mouth. This may be caused by medicines you take. You may notice a dry mouth if your blood sugar levels are high. A dry mouth can increase your risk of cavities, because there's less saliva to wash away germs and take care of the acids they create. Dry mouth can sometimes lead to other problems, such as salivary gland infections.

If you have dry mouth, try drinking more fluids. You can also try chewing sugar-free gum or sugar-free candy to help keep the saliva flowing. Some people use saliva substitutes, available at drug stores.

Keeping your teeth and mouth healthy requires a team effort. You're the most important person on this team to do the day-to-day mouth care. If you have questions or concerns, talk to a team member. Remember, good dental health can create a healthy mouth and a smile that will last a lifetime.

  • Last Reviewed: September 18, 2012
  • Last Edited: January 22, 2014

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