Why Regular Dental Cleaning is an Important Part of Diabetes Management

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By : dLife Editors

Did you know having routine dental visits is an important part of good diabetes management?

Many people may be surprised to learn that gum disease is associated with diabetes.

According to the American Dental Association, research has shown gum disease can worsen if your blood sugar is not under control, so it’s in your best interest, for more than one reason to keep it in check.

Research also shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes, adding serious gum disease to the list of other complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

The ADA indicates that research suggests that people with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems, such as gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (serious gum disease).

People with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums.

According to the American Dental Association, one common infection among people with diabetes is a yeast infection called oral thrush (candidiasis).

The yeast thrives on the higher amount of sugar found in your saliva, and it looks like a white layer coating your tongue and the insides of your cheeks.

Thrush is more common in people who wear dentures and can often leave a bad taste in your mouth. It is imperative to see your dentist if you think you have thrush or any other mouth infection.

What is the Solution?

Professional dental cleaning at least twice a year can improve the state of oral health, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

“A prophylaxis, also known as a ‘prophy’ or professional dental cleaning, reinforces the at-home oral health regimen,” says Dr. Anne Murray, DDS.

“It is designed to preserve health, and prevent the spread of disease and gives the dentist an opportunity to locate other areas in the mouth that may need attention.”

It is strongly recommended that a dentist or hygienist perform a dental cleaning every 3-6 months, says Murray. She discourages consumer use of over-the-counter tooth polishing instruments.

“People with healthy teeth and gums typically do not experience soreness after a cleaning,” says Murray. Those with less than perfect oral hygiene habits may experience discomfort or heightened sensitivity during a dental cleaning.

The dentist can use a topical anesthetic before the cleaning to alleviate pain.

Diagnostic services during your check-up may include:

  • Reviewing and updating medical history; including heart problems, cancer treatment, pregnancy, diabetes, joint replacement, medications taken, surgeries or any other major changes in health history.
  • Blood pressure check.
  • Oral cancer examination and screening.
  • Evaluation of your gum tissue.
  • Checking biting habits, chewing and swallowing patterns.
  • X-rays, examination of teeth to detect decay.
  • Treatment planning.
  • Referral to specialists for specific treatment.

Preventive services may include:

  • Removal of plaque and tartar.
  • Stain removal.
  • Fluoride application.
  • Sealants.
  • Polishing of fillings or crowns.

Educational services may include:

  • Tooth brushing and flossing instructions.
  • Nutritional counseling.
  • Recommendations for future treatment: when to return for following hygiene treatment, periodontal concerns, restorative options, etc.
  • Evaluate possible cosmetic enhancements.
  • Evaluate self-care effectiveness.
  • Tobacco cessation counseling.


  1. 5 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Mouth. American Dental Association. Retrieved 2018, December 20. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/diabetes-slideshow

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD

Updated 12/18 by dLife Editors.