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Detecting diabetes: your mouth may be key


The long-term effects of diabetes can damage the heart, nerves, kidneys, eyes, feet and mouth. Treatment can help minimize serious complications, which makes early diagnosis extremely important.

However, more than 7 million Americans aren’t aware they have diabetes.1 Make sure to pay close attention to your oral health because many of the symptoms and complications of diabetes are frequently present in the mouth.



Look for these symptoms of diabetes.

There are many symptoms of diabetes, including increased thirst, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, frequent urination, slow healing sores, fatigue, irritability and blurred vision.


people in the U.S. have some form of diabetes,2 a disease caused by insulin problems that lead to high blood sugar.

Diabetes can have a big influence on your oral health.

It’s important for diabetics to control blood sugar levels because high blood sugar can raise the risk of these oral complications:

Gum disease often occurs at a younger age in diabetics and can lead to redness, bleeding and swelling in the gums, mouth pain, loose teeth, persistent bad breath or difficulty chewing.

Cavities may be caused by high blood sugar in saliva, which feeds the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Dry mouth is one of the most frequent oral health issues for diabetics. Decreased saliva causes dryness in the mouth. Combined with high sugar, it may lead to cavities. The lack of moisture in the mouth can also make saliva thick and stringy, which can cause difficulty swallowing.

Oral lesions and infections are also sometimes present in diabetics. The most common is thrush — a yeast infection that produces sore white or red patches.

Problems tasting food, as diabetics are more prone to taste disorders, which can also be caused by medicine used to treat diabetes.

Painful burning or tingling sensations in the mouth, known as burning mouth syndrome, which is linked to poorly controlled blood sugar levels.

Not only is gum disease more frequent and often more severe among diabetics, but people with both diabetes and gum disease also have greater difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels. This is likely because of inflammation caused by bacteria in the infected gums.

Preventive exams can help detect diabetes.

With a routine oral exam, your dentist can potentially detect signs of many diseases, including diabetes. It's important to maintain regular dental exams if you have diabetes. Your dental plan may allow for enhanced benefits, such as additional exams, cleanings or deep cleanings that help treat oral issues associated with the disease.

Diabetes can also harm your vision by causing damage to the small blood vessels in your retina. An eye exam can catch signs of diabetes early, before you suffer a change in vision.

Although there is no cure for diabetes, it can be properly managed. Early detection is key. Tell your dentist, optometrist and physician if you are experiencing any symptoms of diabetes. Be sure to let your dentist and optometrist know if you have diabetes, if your blood sugar is off, what medicines you take and when you most recently took them.