Skip to main content
Medically Approved

What to know about diabetes and gum disease

twitter share buttonfacebook share buttonlinkedin share buttonemail article button
Diabetes and gum diseaseGum disease and blood sugar levelsPreventionMedicationSummary
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is common in people with diabetes and can make it harder to manage blood sugar levels. Practicing good oral hygiene at home can help.
Medically reviewed by Kelly Wood, MD
Updated on

If you have diabetes, oral infections like gum disease can increase your blood sugar levels. However, high blood sugar levels can also increase your risk for gum disease, creating a cycle.

People with diabetes should actively try to prevent gum disease as it causes inflammation in the gums, leading to symptoms that can make it harder to manage blood sugar levels and maintain good oral health.

You can help prevent gum disease if you have diabetes by practicing good oral hygiene, managing your blood sugar levels, and attending regular dental appointments.

Can diabetes cause gum disease?

Diabetes and gum disease have a bidirectional relationship, which means they can both be the cause of the other, resulting in a cycle. High blood sugar levels can increase your risk of developing gum disease, while gum disease can increase your blood sugar levels and make diabetes more difficult to manage.

Diabetes can heighten your risk of gum disease and make changes to your saliva. Saliva helps to prevent bacterial growth and tooth decay, protect the tissues in your mouth, and wash away food debris.

With unmanaged diabetes, the salivary glands may produce less saliva. These changes can result in a dryer mouth, which can promote bacterial growth and the formation of plaque. If you do not remove plaque, it can turn into tartar — a hard material also known as calculus — that can cause periodontal disease.

People with diabetes also typically experience a more intense inflammatory response to bacteria compared with people who do not have this condition. Having higher blood sugar levels can increase the risk of damage to their gums and the time it takes for wounds to heal, increasing the likelihood of gum disease.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), about 22% of people with diabetes develop gum disease. A 2020 study suggested that people with diabetes are about 3 times more likely to develop gum disease and other dental issues compared with people without this condition.

Can gum disease affect blood sugar control?

When you have gum disease, your gums become inflamed. The inflammation can enter your bloodstream and trigger your body’s defenses. This can lead to higher blood sugar levels and make it more difficult for you to manage your diabetes.

If you have gum disease, you may experience symptoms such as:

If you notice any sign of gum disease, especially if you have diabetes, consider speaking with a dentist or a doctor. They can recommend the most appropriate treatment. Treating gum disease can help prevent and manage diabetes.

Prevention strategies for gum disease

Person standing in a bathroom brushing their teeth.
Photography by Cavan Images/Getty Images

To help prevent gum disease, the ADA recommends attending regular dental appointments, practicing good oral care at home, and making lifestyle choices that can benefit your overall oral health, such as consuming sweet foods in moderation.

Some strategies that may help your oral health include:

  • brushing your teeth at least twice a day for about 2 minutes
  • using fluoride toothpaste when brushing your teeth
  • limiting snacks and drinks containing added sugars
  • avoiding going to bed without brushing your teeth
  • avoiding smoking, if you smoke
  • keeping good hydration
  • avoiding oral piercings

If you have diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels is also very important in preventing oral infections.

Treatment options for diabetes

The treatments for diabetes can vary depending on what type of diabetes you have. If you have type 1 diabetes, the treatment typically involves taking insulin as your body is not able to produce it.

Types of insulin a doctor may prescribe include:

Type of insulinEffect starts inLasting timeDrug name
Rapid-acting15 minutes2–4 hoursinsulin-lispro (Humalog)
Short-acting30 minutes3–6 hoursinsulin glulisine (Apidra)
Intermediate-acting2–4 hours12–18 hoursHumulin and Novolin.
Long-acting2 hours24 hoursinsulin glargine (Toujeo, Lantus)
Ultra-long-acting6 hours36 hours or moreinsulin-degludec (Tresiba)
Premixed15–30 minutes10–16 hoursNovolog 70/30

If you have type 2 diabetes, exercising regularly and eating a balanced and healthy diet may help you lower your blood sugar levels and manage your condition without the need to take any medications. However, if this does not work, doctors may prescribe you medication to help manage your diabetes.

A variety of medications can help lower blood sugar levels, including:

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.

Pill bottle with text 'Starts at $4'

Free prescription coupons

Seriously … free. Explore prices that beat the competition 70% of the time.

Get free card


Diabetes and gum disease have a bidirectional relationship, which means they can both be the cause of the other.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to high levels of glucose in your blood, which can increase the risk of gum disease. Gum disease can cause inflammation, which can make it more difficult to manage your blood sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetes.

Ways you can prevent gum disease if you have diabetes include:

  • managing your blood sugar levels
  • keeping good oral hygiene at home
  • attending regular dental appointments
  • avoiding consuming a significant quantity of foods containing added sugars

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

Article resources