Diabetes affects so many parts of the body, and your mouth and teeth are no exception. Everyone has bacteria in their mouths, but diabetics, with their high blood-sugar levels, are more prone to tooth and gum problems than the average person. This is because high blood sugar enables germs to multiply and grow, and also lowers a person's resistance to infection. And new research is pointing to the fact that diabetes and oral problems are a two-way street: Not only does the disease make a person more likely to suffer tooth and mouth trouble, but according to the American Diabetes Association, gum disease may cause spikes in blood sugar and hasten the progression of diabetes. Either way, it's a situation you want to avoid.

How do you know if your diabetes is causing a problem inside your mouth? Usually, the first sign of gum disease is red, sore and bleeding gums. Your gums may also recede, causing the teeth to appear longer, and your teeth may feel sensitive. This usually means you have periodontitis, or an infection in the gums and bone that keep your teeth anchored in place. Your teeth may also become loosen and you may experience changes in your bite or find that your dentures (if you have them) fit poorly. You may also suffer from dry mouth and bad breath.

The best way to care for your teeth and gums if you have diabetes is to keep a tight rein on your blood glucose. By managing your diabetes, you'll help keep your mouth healthy. Other steps you can take include:

  • Flossing every day. This keep plaque from building up on your gums, giving bacteria less chance to set in and do some damage.
  • Brushing after each meal and snack. You don't want any sugar sitting around on your teeth.
  • quitting smoking. Cigarettes up anyone's risk of contracting a serious case of gum disease, but diabetics and those over 45 are particularly at risk.
  • Keeping your false teeth or dentures scrupulously clean.
  • Calling your dentist at the first sign of a problem with your teeth or gums.
  • Getting dental checkups every six months.