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5 ways diabetics can maintain oral health

April is National Oral Health Month in Canada. Oral health affects other diseases such as diabetes, respiratory illness, and heart disease. Here, we discuss five ways diabetics can maintain oral health.


Did you know oral health affects other areas of the body as well? Studies have found that periodontal disease is linked to other diseases such as diabetes, respiratory illness, pre-term and low birth weights, and heart disease.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, oral diseases such as tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer are among the most common illnesses in Canada and around the world. Oral diseases can affect people of all ages.

For individuals with diabetes, high sugar levels in the blood mean high sugar levels in the saliva as well. This is a problem as bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar. Combined with food, bacteria create plaque, and if plaque is left untreated, it can lead to tooth decay.

Diabetes is also associated with gum disease. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and also make blood sugar levels rise, making diabetes harder to control. Gum disease itself contributes to the risk of type 2 diabetes.

So how can diabetics maintain oral health? Follow the five ways listed below.

1. Brush and floss daily  

Brushing and flossing daily is vital to remove plaque build-up between teeth. Plaque is a film of bacteria that can thicken and harden into tartar. If plaque is not removed, it contributes to gum infections. Regular brushing and flossing help to remove plaque and is the first line of defence against tooth and gum problems. Health care professionals suggest brushing twice and flossing once every day.

diabetes and oral health

2. Check your teeth, gums and daily

It is important to spot any oral problems early so they can get treated.

Signs of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Sores on the gums
  • Gums pulling away from teeth
  • Loose teeth or a change in bite or tooth position
  • Bad breath

Examining your teeth and gums regularly will allow you to notice any problems so that you can visit a dental professional as soon as possible.

3. Do not smoke or chew tobacco

Using tobacco in any form increases the risk of gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gums and affects the bone structure that supports the teeth. In severe cases of gum diseases, teeth fall out.  Smoking is an important cause of severe gum disease. Read about the top ways to quit smoking here.

4. Control blood sugar  

A healthy diet is an important part of oral health. Nutritious food help build strong teeth and gums. Individuals should avoid foods and drinks that are high in acid and sugar. Sugary and acidic foods contribute to cavities, which are bacterial infections created by acids. When they are left untreated, cavities can progress to the deeper layers of the tooth, causing pain and possibly tooth loss.

It is also important to maintain your prescribed medications to help control blood sugar levels. See our list of the top type 2 diabetes medications.

5. Visit a dental professional for routine check-ups

Visit your dental professional regularly for cleaning and check-ups. Tell your dentist you have diabetes so that they can provide you with the best care according to your health conditions.

Maintaining healthy teeth and gums with a diabetes diagnosis requires effort, but it is achievable. Asking for support from your physicians and dental professionals can help you succeed.

Check out the latest research findings on diabetes here.

Written by Jessica Gelar, HBSc


  1. National Oral Health Month – April 2018 – Canada.ca [Internet]. Canada.ca. 2019 [cited 10 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/news/2018/04/national-oral-health-month–april-2018.html
  2. Smile | Healthy Teeth Healthy Body [Internet]. Canada.ca. 2019 [cited 10 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/hl-vs/alt_formats/pdf/pubs/oral-bucco/2009-smile-sourire/2009-smile-sourire-eng.pdf
  3. Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 [cited 10 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html#seven
  4. Canadian Dental Association [Internet]. Cda-adc.ca. 2019 [cited 10 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/cfyt/good_for_life/default.asp
  5. Diabetes and Your Smile | Features & Spotlights | Resources & Publications | Diabetes | CDC [Internet]. Cdc.gov. 2019 [cited 10 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/diabetes-and-dentalhealth.html
  6. Diabetes and You: Healthy Teeth Matter [Internet]. Cdc.gov. 2019 [cited 10 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/ndep/pdfs/toolkits/working-together/150-healthy-teeth-matter.pdf
Jessica Gelar HBSc
Jessica Gelar HBSc
Jessica has an HBSc from the University of Toronto with a double major in Biology for the Health Sciences and Professional Writing and Communication. She is interested in global and public health and is passionate about bringing the latest research news to the public so that readers can be well-informed when making health-related decisions. As part of the Medical News Bulletin team, Jessica hopes to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public by breaking down scientific jargon into a simple narrative.


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