Complications of Diabetes

Dental Problems in Diabetes

Is gum disease and bad teeth more common in diabetes?

Gum disease or ‘periodontal disease’ is more common in people who have diabetes. This may consist if a slight swelling of the gums known as gingivitis or a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. The latter causes serious inflammation which can affect the bone as a result of which the teeth may work themselves loose.

Why does diabetes cause gum disease?

You do not have to have diabetes to develop gum disease. However both type 1 and type 2 diabetes will increase your risk of developing problem gums. It is thought that poor blood supply, susceptibility to infection and poor wound healing may contribute. There is some evidence that those with poor blood sugar control are more likely to have gum disease.

How do I know if I have gum disease?

If your gums are healthy they will appear pink and firm without any space between the gums and teeth. Diseased gums look swollen and inflamed. There may be a heavy build up of plaque on the teeth and when you brush your teeth, the gums may bleed. The margin of the gums may recede so that you look ‘long in the tooth’. When the condition is advanced you will notice that your teeth are loose.

Can gum disease be prevented or cured?

If you clean your teeth regularly, you may prevent the mild form of gum disease known as gingivitis. Periodontitis is more severe – gaps or pockets develop between the tooth and gum and the bone of the jaw is gradually eroded or destroyed as a result. Your teeth will work loose at this stage. This process takes many many years and is usually painless which means you do not get a lot of warning.

A dentist will be the best person to advise you on keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

What can I do to keep my teeth and gums healthy?

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • If you use a mouth wash, choose one which does not contain alcohol.
  • See a dentist at regular intervals.
  • Smoking will ruin your teeth as well as your blood vessels. It makes gum disease a lot worse.
  • If you are known to have periodontal disease ask your dentist about extra percautions to keep you gums healthy.
  • Saliva protects the gums and teeth. If your mouth is dry, drink lots of water. Sugar free gum may help.


Dr Nishan Wijenaike MD FRCP
Consultant Physician
West Suffolk Diabetes Service
Bury St Edmunds
June 2007