Living with diabetes can be a struggle. It must be properly looked after so as to not cause significant damage to your body. This disease can affect your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and feet if it isn’t managed carefully. To avoid these possible complications, people with diabetes see endless rounds of needles and should eat a healthy diet.

Another complication that many diabetics run into affects their mouth. People with this condition are more susceptible to periodontal disease. It is estimated that one in three people with diabetes will suffer from gum disease at least once in their life.

Gum Disease and Diabetes

If blood sugar levels aren’t properly managed, they can accelerate the development of periodontal disease in both adults and children by causing increased glucose levels in saliva. A high glucose level in your saliva helps harmful bacteria grow in your mouth and on your teeth. This bacteria then combines with the food you eat to create plaque, which increases the risk of dental decay and gum disease. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, “periodontal disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes.” Those who don’t have their condition under control are especially at risk.

There are several signs that indicate you may have gum disease. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you may have it. If your gums are swollen or tender, you may have it. If you suffer from persistent bad breath or have receding gums, there’s a good chance you have periodontal disease.

Having gum disease can cause further complications for diabetics. Severe gum disease is detrimental to the long-term management of blood sugar control and raises the chances of suffering from other complications. Gum infections can raise glucose levels, and these higher levels make it harder to fight infections. White blood cells weaken when glucose levels are high, so they aren’t as effective at killing unwanted germs in the body. Diabetics are already more susceptible to infections, though, because of the blood vessel changes that can occur. This impaired blood flow weakens the bone and gums, allowing an infection to creep in. Healing this infection will take a long time.

Other Mouth Complications Caused by Diabetes

Along with gum disease, diabetics can suffer from thrush, also known as candidiasis. Thrush is the growth of a naturally occurring fungus which the body can’t control. People who have thrush will find sore, red or white patches on their cheeks, tongue, gums, or roof of the mouth. If not treated, these patches can evolve into painful open sores. To get rid of thrush, your dentist or doctor can prescribe you medication to kill the fungus. You can also get rid of it by cleaning your dentures regularly or removing them for a portion of the day and soaking them in medicine.

Diabetics can also be prone to dry mouth. With dry mouth, you have a lack of saliva, which can raise the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Dry mouth causes a dry tongue, pain, cracked lips, mouth sores or infection, and problems chewing, talking, eating, or swallowing. If you have chronic dry mouth, it’s good to rinse your mouth with fluoride to prevent cavities, drink lots of water, or use a humidifier. Alcoholic drinks, caffeine, and tobacco can make this condition worse.

Related: Dragging Daily? How Smoking Affects Your Oral Health

Too much glucose can cause infection, pain, and other problems in your mouth. It can lead to gum disease, which creates a cycle of pain and high blood sugar levels. Diabetes can also cause thrush and dry mouth. To mitigate the effects that diabetes can have on the mouth, it’s crucial to brush and floss every day and see a dentist regularly.