It’s important to maintain a healthy mouth for life! Doing so can be a little more complicated, but just as important, if you have diabetes.

While diabetes doesn’t necessarily increase your risk of cavities, it does affect your gum tissue and support. If your diabetes is well-controlled, this is less of a concern, but poorly controlled diabetes can lead to a loss of support for your teeth and poor healing. This can lead to losing teeth prematurely.

Here are some simple ways to maintain good oral health when you have diabetes:

1. Tell your dentist about your medical history. 

Let your dentist know you have diabetes, and tell them about any medications you’re taking, as well as any other conditions you have that make your medical history more complex. Your medications may not cause dental issues, but they may cause you to bleed more. Giving this information to your dentist will help them determine how best to treat your teeth, keep you safe, and protect your oral health for the future. They may recommend you come in for more frequent cleanings to monitor your teeth, and approach intervention differently, given that you may heal slower.

2. Learn the signs for gingivitis

If you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk for gingivitis and periodontitis due to an increase of sugar in your saliva that helps bacteria grow. If your gums are red, swollen, and painful, get it checked out. Brush and floss regularly to keep those gums healthy and free of the kind of bacteria that lead to serious gum disease. Don’t hesitate to ask your dentist for oral health tips that will help you maintain the health of your teeth for the long term. While these are good habits for anyone, they’re especially crucial for you!

3. Watch for dry mouth

It’s common to get dry mouth with diabetes, because high blood sugar levels cause the body to make more urine. Watch for excessive thirst and dry mouth, which can increase plaque and tooth decay (which happens when there’s not enough saliva to wash away bacteria). While your dentist may not have a direct treatment for dry mouth, your diabetes health team can support you. Reach out to your medical team to help you improve your blood sugar control. This will positively impact your oral health.

The best thing you can do for your mouth when you have diabetes is maintain a healthy diet, avoid smoking, and brush and floss twice a day. Keeping your blood sugars at target will not only prevent things like heart disease and nerve damage in your body, but will keep your mouth healthy. Don’t forget that your mouth is often the place in your body that exposes health issues on a deeper level! Your dentist is a great advocate for overall health.