The diabetes-gum disease connection

If you have diabetes, it's important to take good care of your teeth and gums. Why? Gum disease can make your diabetic condition worse. And if you don't have diabetes, good dental care can lower your chances of developing periodontal (gum) diseases.

What's the connection? Research suggests that the relationship between gum disease and diabetes is a two-way street. One disease impacts the other. Over time, it can become a vicious cycle

Because diabetes reduces the body's ability to fight infection, the gums are likely to be affected. Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the gum and bone. People with uncontrolled blood sugar have a tendency to develop periodontal diseases more often and more severely. They're also more likely to lose more teeth than people who have their diabetes under control.

If you do have diabetes, tell your dentist. Be sure to get regular checkups every six months. Remember to brush your teeth gently, at least twice a day, with special attention to the gum line and floss at least once a day.

Mouth Problems Could Signal Diabetes


One in three people with diabetes don’t even know they have it. But untreated, high blood sugar can threaten your heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys. High blood sugar also affects your mouth.

Three oral symptoms could be the first signs that you need to be screened for diabetes:

  • Bad breath. Diabetes is one of several diseases that can cause bad breath. A person with diabetes also may develop fruit-smelling breath. This means the body is struggling to throw off excess chemicals, which could be very dangerous.

  • Dry mouth. People with undiagnosed diabetes may feel especially thirsty. Dry mouth also can cause contribute to bad breath and tooth decay.

  • Sore gums or teeth. Sore, swollen, or bleeding gums could signal the start of gum disease. Gum disease happens more often in people with diabetes. The gums and the bone that holds teeth in place can become infected. If gum disease worsens, the gums could pull away from the teeth. Teeth might look longer or feel sensitive.

If you’re having oral problems, put your money where your mouth is. Make an appointment with your dentist or doctor, and ask whether you could have diabetes.


“How Does Diabetes Affect Oral Health?” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry, January 2012. Accessed 2013.

“Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Mouth Healthy.” National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, May 10, 2012. Accessed 2013.

“Breath Odor.” Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia, March 22, 2013. Accessed 2013.

“Bad Breath.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

"Living With Diabetes: Diabetes and Oral Health Problems." American Diabetes Association. Accessed 2013.

"Living with Diabetes: Your Health Care Team." American Diabetes Association. Accessed 2013.

"Brushing Your Teeth." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association.  Accessed 2013. 

“Flossing.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

"Diabetes." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.

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