WEDNESDAY was World Diabetes Day and it is estimated that three-and-a-half million South Africans (about six percent of the population), reported in 2012, suffer from diabetes. Many more remain undiagnosed.For many people it may come as a surprise that a possible complication of diabetes is gum disease however research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes. Serious gum disease has even been added to the list of other complications associated with diabetes, which already includes heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Diabetes can affect a person’s ability to fight bacteria in their mouth, as the high blood sugar encourages bacteria to grow, which can contribute to gum disease. Signs of gum disease can include, but are not limited to, gums that are red, sore, bleeding or swollen, loose teeth, and chronic bad breath.Emerging research has found that the relationship between severe gum disease and diabetes may be two-way. Diabetics are more susceptible to serious gum disease, and serious gum disease can potentially affect blood glucose control which can contribute to the progression of diabetes.In fact, well-controlled diabetes can help to keep your mouth healthy and keeping your mouth healthy can help you manage your blood sugar, since infections can cause your blood sugar to rise, making your diabetes harder to control.Good oral hygiene is important for everyone, especially those with diabetes. Good oral hygiene includes brushing twice a day, flossing, and using an anti-bacterial mouthwash. This not only freshens breath and gets rid of debris in the mouth, but it also helps to prevent gum disease and plaque build-up. The same steps that can help to keep your mouth healthy can also help manage your diabetes. These steps include eating a healthy diet, not smoking, taking your diabetes medications, and seeing your dentist at least twice a year.