What is the main cause of tooth decay in type 2 diabetes?


There is no direct cause and effect relationship between type 2 diabetics and tooth decay. There is an indirect link however. The typical type 2 diabetic is overweight. A rise in obesity is accompanied by a rise in high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, heart and kidney problems. Many medications that treat these other conditions have a side effect of causing a dry mouth. Xerostomia or dry mouth increases the risk of cavities because there is less saliva in the mouth to wash away the plaque. There is a definite correlation between dry mouth and tooth decay.

Type 2 Diabetic patients really don't have a statistical difference to coronal decay (in the crown portion of the tooth). The area of the tooth that type 2 Diabetics have a higher incidence is what are known as root surface caries (decay). This is most likely thought to be the factors involved with decreased salivary flow (what's known as a low salivary buffer capacity) or existing coronal caries rather than them being at a general higher risk category. So the recommendation is that the person with type 2 Diabetes should have regular ongoing periodontal care (personally, I recommend 4-6 times per year).

Tooth decay in Type 2 diabetics results from the interaction of plaque bacteria with dietary sugars. If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to be diligent in brushing your teeth at least two or three times a day for two minutes each time. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride and floss your teeth at least once each day. In addition, do oral health checks once a month to notice any changes in your teeth or gums. If you notice bleeding gums, discolored teeth, or other problem, call your dentist and seek treatment. Treating dental problems early is important to self-managing oral health care. 

Continue Learning about Diabetes and Oral Health

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.