Protect your smile from periodontal disease

Dr. Gary R. DiStefano, DDS &
Schaefer Dental Group


HOWELL, MI 48843
OFFICE (517) 546-8983
FAX (517) 546-1422

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Diabetes and your Oral Health

When you have diabetes, special attention to your oral health is absolutely necessary!

Diabetes patients have an increased risk of oral infection, tooth decay, gum disease, and dry mouth conditions. If excellent oral health is not maintained, control of diabetes can be more difficult. If you are aware of the complications that diabetes can cause, your chances of maintaining a healthy mouth improve.

Tooth and gum damage:

Diabetes causes an increased level of sugar in the blood. This sugar can increase your chances of developing serious tooth decay.


Plaque is a combination of bacteria and food particles that covers the teeth, cheeks, and tongue. The bacteria are fed by the food that you eat, and produce acid as a byproduct. This acid attacks the teeth directly, causing tooth decay. Diabetics have a higher level of sugar in the blood, allowing the bacteria to produce more acid. This is why diabetics have a higher risk of tooth decay.

Gum disease:

Dental plaque also plays a large role in the formation of gum disease. Plaque if not removed from the teeth in 24 hours, will harden and become very irritating to the gum tissues. This irritation turns into inflammation (gingivitis). This inflammation is easily treatable by your dental professional. A dental cleaning and better brushing/flossing habits can clear this up in 2 weeks. However, if this is left untreated it can progress into a far more severe problem gum disease (periodontal disease).

Periodontal disease is when bacteria attacks the bone supporting the teeth and infects the gum tissue. This eventually progresses into loose teeth, which may eventually fall out.

It is very common for diabetics to experience gingivitis and periodontitis. Once these infections arise, the body has a difficult time resolving them. Diabetics are three times more likely to develop gum disease.

Research suggests that those individuals with gum infections are more likely to experience cardiovascular problems. Bacteria from the mouth enters the blood stream causing the body to experience an inflammatory response. This response is linked to increased risk of stroke or heart attack.

Prevent tooth and gum infection by:

  • Getting your teeth cleaned three times a year
  • Brushing 3 times a day with an electric toothbrush
  • Flossing every day
  • Examining your mouth for signs and symptoms of disease

Other Dental Complications Due to Diabetes:

Diabetes may cause other complications beyond your teeth and gums. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your dentist immediately!

Dry mouth

Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a condition when the salivary glands fail to produce enough saliva. This may cause difficulty with speech, eating, and swallowing. This condition may also cause your gum tissue and tongue to become sore and irritated.

Your dentist may recommend that you use artificial saliva products, moisturizing mouthwashes, or sugar-less mints that stimulate saliva. Taking frequent sips of water also helps to maintain mouth moisture.

Fungal infection

The mouth maintains a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria. When salivary flow is diminished, the balance is thrown off. This allows the fungus of the mouth to become an infection called Candiasis or oral thrush. This infection usually appears in red and white areas. Your dentist will prescribe an antifungal to treat this condition up. Certain things such as smoking or persistent denture wear increase your chance of developing a fungal infection.

Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is a disorder that causes painful ulcers in the mouth and eroding of the oral tissues. There is no known cure for this disorder. Your dentist may prescribe a topical mouthwash to ease the discomfort.

Burning mouth syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome is characterized by a severe burning sensation of the mouth. Your dentist may prescribe a soothing mouthwash to diminish the symptoms. Two very likely causes of this syndrome are dry mouth (xerostomia) or candidiasis (fungal infection).

Oral surgery and Diabetes:

Diabetes can cause delayed healing after oral surgery. Those individuals with poorly controlled diabetes are also at an increased risk of oral infection.

Diabetics must be acutely aware of their blood sugar levels after oral surgery. Post-surgery discomfort in relation to food consumption, as well as the stress of surgery can cause fluctuation in glucose levels.

Maintaining glucose levels after surgery is important to reduce the risk of post-surgery complications.

Always follow the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association:

  • Talk to your dentist. Discuss your condition with your dentist, and discuss ways to prevent infection.
  • Eat before surgery. The best time for any dental procedure is when your blood sugar is under control.
  • Don’t skip your medications. Continue your medication unless directed otherwise by your physician.
  • Eat soft foods. After oral surgery, plan to eat foods that do not cause your mouth any pain.
  • Optimal blood sugar. If your blood sugar is uncontrolled talk to your dentist about rescheduling for a different date.
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