If You Notice This in Your Mouth, Get Checked for Diabetes, Experts Say

This unpleasant sensation may be more than just a nuisance.

Diabetes is a serious, chronic health condition that affects how your body metabolizes sugar. And, as the 34 million Americans with diabetes know all too well, it can come with a range of unpleasant symptoms ranging from unquenchable thirst to poor vision. But sometimes before the condition is even diagnosed, there are signs you can look out for. Experts are now warning about one that is especially common—and it's something you may notice in your mouth. Read on to find out which surprising symptom should be on your radar, and what you can do about it if you notice a problem.

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If you notice your mouth is often dry, get checked for diabetes.

dry mouth

According to the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most common symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes is xerostomia, or dry mouth. This occurs when there is a lack of saliva in the mouth, leading to irritation of the lips, corners of the mouth, gums, and tongue. Additionally, those with xerostomia may develop painful sores in the mouth, or infections in the oral cavity, reports Healthline. The lack of moisture can lead to difficulty swallowing, talking, or chewing.

Though anyone may experience dry mouth from time to time, research has shown that it happens more frequently in those with diabetes. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that diabetes "is probably the most frequent metabolic disease with salivary implications, due to its high frequency." In fact, that team acknowledged separate research which concluded that 45 percent of those with diabetes experienced hyposalivation, compared with 2.5 percent of the control group. 

RELATED: If You Notice This in the Bathroom, It Could Be the First Sign of Diabetes.

High glucose levels are likely to blame for this symptom.

Man having his blood glucose levels checked by his doctor for diabetes

Those with diabetes suffer from an imbalance in glucose levels. When excess glucose enters your bloodstream and saliva, you become "more susceptible to dry mouth and [oral] yeast infections," says a U.K. based network for those with diabetes.

To make matters worse, many diabetes patients experience the related symptom of extreme thirst, making their mouths feel that much dryer. Additionally, certain medications prescribed to treat diabetes may come with side effects that exacerbate the problem.

Dry mouth may also have one of these other underlying causes.

Woman lost sense of smell

Of course, not everyone who experiences a dry mouth has diabetes. The symptom can be the result of dehydration, smoking, medication side effects, nasal congestion, radiation therapy, nerve damage, and more.

Regardless of its root cause, you should see a doctor if you've noticed that your symptoms persist over time. "Decreased saliva and dry mouth can range from being merely a nuisance to something that has a major impact on your general health and the health of your teeth and gums, as well as your appetite and enjoyment of food," notes the Mayo Clinic.

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Here's how to minimize the symptom in the meantime.

closeup of man pouring mouthwash

Until a doctor is able to determine the cause of your dry mouth, experts say there are several things you can do to minimize the impact on your life. First, be sure to stay hydrated by taking sips of water throughout the day. The Mayo Clinic also recommends switching to non-alcohol based mouthwash, using lip balm generously, limiting your caffeine intake, quitting smoking, and investing in a humidifier. You may be able to stimulate the production of saliva by chewing sugar-free gum and trying over-the-counter saliva substitutes, according to the health authority.

Finally, if you suspect that diabetes is at the root of your discomfort, speak with a medical professional about the various ways to keep your blood sugars within the recommended range.

RELATED: If You See This on Your Nails, It Could Be a Tell-Tale Sign of Diabetes.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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