Too much glucose (sugar) in the blood due to diabetes can cause pain, infection, and other problems in the mouth.

This makes it especially important for people with diabetes to check their mouth for signs of problems from diabetes.

If you notice any problems, you should see your dentist right away. Some of the first signs of gum disease are swollen, tender, or bleeding gums.

However, sometimes you won’t have any signs of gum disease. You may not know you have it until you have serious damage. Your best defense is to see your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.

Here are the most common mouth problems for people with diabetes:

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Gingivitis

What it is:

  • unhealthy or inflamed gums

Symptoms:

  • red, swollen, and bleeding gums

Periodontitis

What it is:

  • gum disease, which can change from mild to severe

Symptoms:

  • red, swollen, and bleeding gums
  • gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • long-lasting infection between the teeth and gums
  • bad breath that won’t go away
  • permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from one another
  • changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • sometimes pus between the teeth and gums
  • changes in the fit of dentures, which are teeth you can remove

Thrush (also called Candidiasis)

What it is:

  • the growth of a naturally occurring fungus that the body is unable to control

Symptoms:

  • sore, white—or sometimes red—patches on your gums, tongue, cheeks, or the roof of your mouth
  • patches that have turned into open sores
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Xerostomia (dry mouth)

What it is:

  • a lack of saliva in your mouth, which raises your risk for tooth decay and gum disease

Symptoms:

  • dry feeling in your mouth, often or all of the time
  • dry, rough tongue
  • pain in the mouth
  • cracked lips
  • mouth sores or infection
  • problems chewing, eating, swallowing, or talking

Oral Burning

What it is:

  • a burning sensation inside the mouth caused by uncontrolled blood glucose levels

Symptoms:

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  • burning feeling in the mouth
  • dry mouth
  • bitter taste
  • symptoms may worsen throughout the day

More symptoms of a problem in your mouth include:

  • a sore, or an ulcer, that does not heal
  • dark spots or holes in your teeth
  • pain in your mouth, face, or jaw that doesn’t go away
  • loose teeth
  • pain when chewing
  • a changed sense of taste or a bad taste in your mouth
  • bad breath that doesn’t go away when you brush your teeth

If you feel nervous about visiting the dentist, tell your dentist and the staff about your feelings. Your dentist can adapt the treatment to your needs. Don’t let your nerves stop you from having regular checkups. Waiting too long to take care of your mouth may make things worse.

Talk with your dentist or doctor (Tips for Talking to Your Doctor ) before the visit about the best way to take care of your blood glucose during dental work. You may be taking a diabetes medicine that can cause low blood glucose, also called hypoglycemia. If you take insulin or other medications, take them and eat as usual before visiting the dentist. You may need to bring your diabetes medicines and your snacks or meal with you to the dentist’s office. You may need to postpone any non-emergency dental work if your blood glucose is not under control.

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Sources: NIDDK, Geralt/Pixabay (photo)