Medical director explains how diabetes can affect oral health

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

To get a better understanding of how to treat oral health, Dr. Michelle Vargas, medical director for oral health services for Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc discusses commonly asked questions.

Did you know diabetes can affect not just your overall health, but your oral health?

To get a better understanding of how to treat oral health, Dr. Michelle Vargas, medical director for oral health services for Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc discusses commonly asked questions.


1) What is the connection between diabetes and your teeth?

“Diabetes can impact a person’s overall health and oral health in a number of ways,” Vargas said. “Oftentimes, the patient’s diabetes is not under control. It affects their mouth in many ways, such as dry mouth, a lower saliva production which in turn can cause cavities and also delay wound healing infections in the mouth. It can cause inflammation, inflamed gums and gingivitis, which, if left untreated, could cause more serious health problems.”

Takeaway: Diabetes can cause dry mouth, lower saliva production, inflamed gums and gingivitis.

2) How can you take better care of their teeth, whether or not you have diabetes?

“It’s important to see your dentist regularly and get regular cleanings,” Vargas said. “In addition to that, it’s really important at home to brush your teeth at least two times a day. Make sure you include flossing in your daily regimen. In addition to that, exercising really does increase the blood sugar level and having a healthy diet. Make sure that you avoid sugary snacks. And don’t forget to avoid those sugary drinks like sodas, candies and sports drinks as well.”

Takeaway: Try to avoid drinks and food that contain high amounts of sugar. Floss at least two times a day.

3) Why is it important for patients and their dentist and their primary care providers to have good communication?

“When we communicate about diabetes and the patient’s overall blood sugar level, it really can improve their overall health,” Vargas explained.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to keep an open dialogue with your primary care provider and dentist if you are having abnormal side effects from diabetes and oral health.


The faith-based nonprofit organization is dedicated to creating access to health care for the uninsured and low-income families through direct services, community partnerships and strategic grant-making in 74 counties across South Texas.

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