Oral Health Tip
Because the symptoms of diabetes may be subtle, many people aren’t aware they have it. To help people determine their risk, the American Diabetes Association created the Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. Dentists are often the first health care providers to spot the warning signs of diabetes in patients at risk.
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We all know that we should brush and floss daily. But for26 million Americans, oral health care is even more important. These individuals have diabetes. Even more troubling, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that another 57 million – about a fourth of U.S. adults – have pre-diabetes, which means their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes. Those folks need to pay attention to their oral health, too.
That's because diabetics are more prone to infection, and gum disease is an infection. So having diabetes or pre-diabetes puts people at greater risk for periodontal disease. I recently spoke with West Orange-based Andrew Greenberger, D.M.D., periodontist and participating Delta Dental of New Jerseydentist to find out more.
Dr. Greenberger noted that diabetes is a chronic disease that increases the risk for many serious health problems including severe gum disease. Unfortunately, studies have found that people with diabetes see their dentist less often than those without the disease.1
"We want to remind everyone to visit their dentist regularly, but especially if you might be at risk for diabetes," he said.
According to the American Diabetes Association, controlling blood sugar levels is a key to preventing many serious complications of diabetes such as heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Research also suggests a two-way relationship between serious periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to severe gum disease, but it may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.2 People with diabetes tend to develop periodontal disease earlier in life, and more severely. Instead of losing their teeth from gum disease in their sixties, they might begin losing teeth in their mid-forties. Smokers with diabetes are especially at-risk for gum disease and tooth loss.
Dentist visits are crucial because oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease are often reversible if they are diagnosed early and preventive treatments are delivered. Dentists will also check for other common mouth conditions that afflict people with diabetes such as dry mouth, ulcers, and infections. Mouth conditions may also be a sign that other medical conditions exist elsewhere in the body, which a dental exam can also reveal. Depending on what is found, the dentist might advise patients to seek medical attention.
"Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups, and good blood glucose control are the best defenses against periodontal disease," said Dr. Greenberger. "In addition, quitting smoking may be the most important thing that people can do to protect their oral and overall health, and protect against diabetes."
"The good news is that with proper dental hygiene at home and regular visits to the dentist (at least twice annually), there's no reason people with diabetes should have worse oral health than people without," he added.
For more information about the relationship between diabetes and oral health watch a Dental Connections video featuring Dr. Greenberger on the subject.
For more information about Delta Dental of New Jersey, visitwww.deltadentalnj.com and "Like" our Delta Dental of New Jersey Facebook pageand our Delta Dental of New Jersey Foundation Facebook page. If you or someone you know is in need of dental care, please contact the Division of Family Health Service 2012 dental clinic directory.
1 Macek MD, Tomar SL. Dental care visits among dentate adults with diabetes and periodontitis. J Public Health Dent. 2009 Fall; 69(4):284-9.www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19552674