• Dr. Vallerie B. Kee

The Diabetic Dental Patient

Diabetes is a common illness effecting an estimated 29 million American. Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar caused by little to no insulin production by the pancreas. Increased blood sugar increases a diabetics risk for caries (cavities), gingivitis, severe periodontal (gum) disease, thrush, and xerostomia (dry mouth).

Dental Caries

Carbohydrates break down into sugars that forms a film of plaque on the teeth. If allowed to harden, the plaque will turn to calculus and will be unable to remove by simple brushing and flossing. The acids from the plaque attacks the teeth, potentially causing dental caries if left untreated. Because diabetics have increased blood sugar, there is an increased risk of dental caries in diabetic patients.

Gum Disease

A diabetic's increased blood sugar can make it more difficult to maintain healthy teeth and gums. As with dental caries, plaque left on the teeth can spread below the gum line, hardening into calculus. In the long-term this can develop into inflammation and a serious infection, called periodontitis. Not only are diabetics more susceptible to infection but are less able to fight it. Futhermore, the resulting inflammation will lead to elevated blood sugar levels in the body. Regular teeth cleanings can help prevent gum disease and improve blood sugar.


Diabetics are at increased risk of a fungal (yeast) infection which looks like white or red patches in the mouth. It can be painful but easy to treat.

Dry Mouth

A common symptom of diabetes is decreased saliva production. Without saliva, the teeth are more susceptible to decay and disease.

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