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Kids and diabetes: Take extra care to protect their teeth and gums

Children and teens with diabetes are at greater risk for gum disease.

Children and teens with diabetes are at greater risk for gum disease.

Did you know high levels of sugar in the saliva of kids with diabetes puts them at greater risk for problems with their teeth, gums and mouth?

Diabetes can contribute to bacteria growth in the mouth, plaque build-up and gum disease, while also weakening the body’s ability to fight back.

To protect your child’s teeth and gums, the best defense is to:

  • Control blood glucose levels
  • Eat a diet  rich in calcium and vitamin D to ensure strong bones and teeth
  • Follow a regular oral health routine
  • Get regular dental check-ups

Daily care:

  • Establish a twice-a-day tooth-brushing habit – morning and night with a soft to medium bristle toothbrush
  • Get a new toothbrush every 3 months
  • Use fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss every day to remove food that gets stuck between the teeth

For babies:

  • Don’t put your baby to bed or down for a nap with a bottle
  • Gently clean her gums with a soft wash cloth after each meal
  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush when his teeth start to come in

Visiting the dentist:

  • Get a checkup every 6 months, starting at age 2 or after your child’s teeth appear

Before your child’s first check-up:

  • Schedule a meeting to ensure the visit is a positive experience.
  • Let the dentist know about your child’s condition. On future visits, let the dentist know about any changes to her health or medications.
  • If you’re concerned, ask your doctor to recommend a dentist who specializes in kids.
  • Talk to your dentist about fluoride to support strong teeth. Options include fluoridated water, toothpaste, mouth wash, tablets and treatments. Remember that well water and most bottled waters don’t have fluoride in them.
  • Talk to your dentist about sealants for your child’s permanent teeth.

Children and teens with diabetes are at greater risk for gum disease. Call your dentist if your child shows any of these warning signs:

  • A toothache
  • Red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums

It’s important for kids with diabetes to establish early on the habits that will help keep them healthy throughout their lifetimes. This includes controlling their blood sugar levels and taking good care of their teeth.

For more information, check out this list of frequently-asked questions on oral health and hygiene from the American Diabetes Association.


Janet Haas is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and diabetes program coordinator for Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.

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jhaas@chmca.org' About Janet Haas, RN, CDE

Janet Haas is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and diabetes program coordinator for Akron Children's Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.

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