Compromised quality saliva puts diabetes patients at greater risk of oral health problems.

That's according to new research that reveals diabetes patients who suffer from having a dry mouth appear to have more watery saliva and lower levels of certain salivary proteins and calcium.

Diabetes affects around 4 million people in the UK, and many face an increased risk of oral health issues including tooth decay, and eventually tooth loss. This is thought to occur due to changes in the patient’s saliva causing dry mouth.

The study by researchers at Queen Mary London involved 15 participants; five patients with diabetes and dry mouth; five patients with diabetes without dry mouth; and five healthy participants without diabetes or dry mouth. Saliva samples were collected from all participants and analysed.

Patients with diabetes and dry mouth were reported to have less viscous and more watery saliva when compared to patients with diabetes but no dry mouth, and healthy participants.

It is thought that less viscous saliva may not cover the tooth surface for a prolonged period of time, ultimately affecting its protective properties, leading to decay on enamel and dentine.

By studying the issue further, the researchers hope that they may able to develop risk assessment tools including testing saliva and detecting tooth decay at an early stage in patients with diabetes, and help to improve their oral health and quality of life.