If you’re living with diabetes, it’s important to pay close attention to your oral health and dental care.

Here are some potential diabetes dental problems and tips for a healthy mouth.

Ways that diabetes can affect your mouth

People with diabetes face a higher risk of:

Tooth decay

When the sugars and starches you eat and drink mix with bacteria in your mouth, plaque forms on your teeth. The acids in plaque attack the tooth enamel, which can lead to tooth decay and cavities. When your blood sugar level is higher than normal, you’re adding more sugar to create more acid.

Gingivitis (early gum disease)

Diabetes causes blood vessel changes, which can reduce the flow of nutrients and removal of wastes from your gums. This can increase your risk of infection and weaken the gums and bone. If plaque hardens under your gum line and turns into tartar, your gums will swell and bleed over time. This is the early stage of gingivitis, but if caught early on, your dentist can perform deep cleanings to help with your gum health.

Periodontitis (advanced gum disease)

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can turn into periodontitis, which can destroy the supporting bone and cause tooth loss. This advanced gum disease can be more severe for diabetics because diabetes lowers your ability to fight infection and slows healing. Periodontitis may also cause your blood sugar level to rise, which could make managing diabetes more difficult.

Dry mouth

Diabetes can cause dry mouth, also known as xerostomia. This is when the salivary glands in your mouth don’t make enough saliva, which can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and thrush. Certain medications can cause dry mouth as well.

Thrush

A type of yeast infection, thrush often occurs in people with diabetes or weak immune systems. It appears as white patches or a white coating on your tongue or in your mouth. Thrush can cause a loss of taste, mouth soreness or a burning sensation.

Tips for a healthy mouth

Since diabetes can make dental problems more severe, follow these tips to keep your teeth and gums healthy:

  • Brush and floss dailyBrush your teeth for 2 minutes, 2 times a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. You should also clean between your teeth daily with an interdental cleaner like a dental pick, water flosser or dental floss.
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash/rinse at least once a day—Like dental floss, mouthwash can clean areas between teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach. Be sure to choose a mouthwash without alcohol, which can cause dry mouth.
  • Keep your dentures clean—If you wear dentures, remove and brush them daily. For helpful advice on caring for your dentures, check out these tips for dealing with dentures.
  • See your dentist every 6 months—Go to your dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings, X-rays and exams. Remember to remind your dentist you have diabetes before each visit.
  • Add healthy foods to your dietFoods that are good for your teeth and foods that help prevent cavities aren’t just good for your oral health—they help keep your entire body healthy.

Humana offers dental plans

If you’re looking for dental insurance, Humana can help. We offer a broad range of dental plans with varying levels of coverage, many with low monthly premiums. Some of our plans also feature no waiting periods, which means you could get covered in about 5 days. To see plans and prices in your area, check out our Humana Insurance Company dental insurance page.