Updated on February 23, 2024
4 min read

Effects of Diabetes on Oral Health

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

How Does Diabetes Impact Your Oral Health?

People living with diabetes are more likely to develop serious oral health problems, including mouth infections and diseases.

34.8 million Americans (11.6 percent) have diabetes, and 97.6 million adults live with prediabetes.1 By definition, diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a group of serious diseases that result in high blood sugar (glucose).

diabetes kit with blood sugar level detector over informative papers.jpg

What are the Types of Diabetes?

The two types of diabetes include:

  • Type I Diabetes Commonly genetic in children, adolescents, and young adults; occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin
  • Type II Diabetes Often diagnosed in overweight adults and seniors; occurs when the body no longer responds to insulin

“In total, 27.9 million Americans received diabetes diagnoses in 2022.”1

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

​​How Can You Manage Diabetes?

You can typically keep the diseases under control with:

  • A balanced diet
  • Exercise
  • Insulin
  • Other medications that control blood sugar levels

In 2015, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, while cancer is the second.

Common Dental Conditions Associated with Untreated Diabetes

Symptoms of diabetes can impact many different parts of your body, including the oral cavity. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop serious oral conditions, including infections and pain affecting your:

  • Teeth and gums
  • Jaw
  • Tongue
  • Palate
  • Cheeks
  • Bottom of your mouth

These are in addition to a higher risk of experiencing general health complications.

Connection Between High Blood Sugar and Plaque Buildup

Glucose in saliva keeps your mouth wet and helps wash out harmful bacteria. However, when too much glucose is present, it encourages the growth of harmful bacteria.

Over time, food particles and bacteria produce high plaque levels, a sticky film forming on teeth. Uncontrolled diabetes and plaque buildup can lead to many serious dental complications, including the conditions below.

Gingivitis (Minor Gum Disease)

Uncontrolled diabetes commonly causes gingivitis, a mild and reversible form of gum disease. It forms due to unremoved plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) that collects above your gum line. 

Symptoms of gingivitis include swollen, red, inflamed, and bleeding gums. Treatment for gingivitis includes:

  • Professional teeth cleaning
  • Fluoride treatment
  • A prescription toothpaste or mouth rinse

Periodontal Disease (Advanced Gum Disease)

Poor blood sugar control increases the risk of developing periodontal disease (periodontitis or PD). Untreated gingivitis often leads to PD, a severe form of gum disease that causes the gums to pull away from the teeth and can lead to permanent bone loss. 

Symptoms of PD include:

  • Bad breath
  • Changes in teeth alignment
  • Tooth loss
  • Bleeding gums

Additionally, advanced gum diseases can elevate blood sugar levels. This makes diabetes harder to control and increases susceptibility to fungal infection.

How Does Periodontal Disease Affect Overall Health and Diabetes Management?

Advanced gum diseases affect oral health and complicate diabetes management by raising blood sugar levels. People with periodontitis are more prone to developing type II diabetes or pregnancy (gestational) diabetes.

Treatments for PD may include scaling and root planing, flap surgery, bone or tissue grafts, or a combination of these procedures. Twenty-two percent of people with diabetes develop periodontal disease.2

Dry Mouth & Tooth Decay

High blood sugar reduces the saliva production in your mouth, which causes dry mouth and results in plaque buildup. This condition also increases your risk of tooth decay (cavities) and chronic bad breath.

If you have cavities, a dentist may recommend:

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection due to the overgrowth of Candida fungus. In addition, high levels of glucose make it easier for the fungus to grow. 

Therefore, people with diabetes who don’t monitor their blood sugar carefully have a higher risk of developing yeast infections. White or red sores and patches on the gums, cheeks, palate, or tongue are common symptoms of thrush.

Treatment includes:

  • Antifungals
  • Antiseptics
  • Dietary supplements
  • Throat lozenges (cough drops)

Oral Burning

Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can also cause a burning sensation in the mouth. Oral burning symptoms include dry mouth, bitter taste, and burning that worsens throughout the day.

Treatment may include:

  • Saliva Replacements
  • Prescription Mouth Rinses
  • Capsaicin (Pain Reliever)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Certain Antidepressants
  • Nerve Pain Blocking Medications

Listen In Q&A Format

Effects of Diabetes on Oral Health
NewMouth Podcast

Oral Care Tips for Diabetics

For those with diabetes, maintaining your mouth health is crucial. Here are some tips to ensure oral well-being and prevent gum disease:

  • Regular dental visits — schedule dentist appointments at least twice yearly for routine cleanings, x-rays, and exams.
  • Early treatment of gum disease the American Dental Association (ADA) emphasizes that treating gum disease early can help improve blood sugar control and slow disease progression.
  • Home oral hygiene practices — brush teeth twice daily using fluoride toothpaste, floss regularly to remove plaque between teeth, and use mouthwash nightly to reduce plaque and bacteria further.


Uncontrolled diabetes and poor oral hygiene can lead to much more severe dental issues. However, you can prevent these complications with proper oral care habits and regular dental visits.

Therefore, diabetic people must prioritize oral health to maintain well-being and prevent further complications. Remember to schedule regular dental visits, practice good oral hygiene habits, and closely monitor your blood sugar levels for optimal health. 

Last updated on February 23, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 23, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. By the Numbers: Diabetes in America.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  2. Diabetes and dental health.” American Dental Association.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Diabetes, Gum Disease, & Other Dental Problems.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2022. 
  4. Lamster et al.Diabetes Mellitus and Oral Health: an Interprofessional Approach.” John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2014.
  5. Gingivitis.” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
  6. Diabetes & Oral Health.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 2023.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram