The link between diabetes and dental health and the importance of making healthy habits a priority
By: Dr. Kenneth Gonzales
A study in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that one out of five cases of total tooth loss in the United States is linked to diabetes. While complications are part of managing diabetes, for the nearly 26 million people in the United States living with the condition, tooth loss and other dental health problems are unlikely to be on their radar.
When it comes to diabetes and dental health, research suggests that the condition actually goes both ways. On one hand, because of lowered resistance to infection and a longer healing process, gum disease appears to be more frequent and more severe among those with diabetes. On the other hand, it appears that treating gum disease in people with diabetes can actually help people improve control over their blood sugar levels. Knowing this pertinent information, the dentist can be a valuable member of a diabetes health care team, along with a primary care provider and other health professionals.
The American Diabetes Association estimates 79 million people, or one in four, may have pre-diabetes or blood glucose levels that are above average, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Additionally, of the nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes, about seven million are still undiagnosed. With those figures in mind, regular health care checkups should be a priority, including dental visits that may help identify potential signs of diabetes that appear in the mouth.
I see it all the time in my practice when performing a thorough dental examination: the oral health problems associated with diabetes and patients who don’t know they have it or are borderline diabetic. I see patients with severely inflamed gums and cases of gum disease that have, together with a patient’s medical history, prompted a discussion about whether there is a potential risk of diabetes. And many times, I’m happy to say, they tell me their physician has asked them to see a dentist for a checkup and to check to see if they have gum disease. Oral health and overall health are connected, and as dentists, it’s our job to flag signs of poor oral health that might signal other serious conditions.
People with diabetes should make sure their dentist is aware of the condition and create a personal oral care plan with their dentist. Also be sure to ask your dentist how you can check for signs of gum disease at home between checkups.
Regardless of whether you have diabetes, practicing good oral care is essential to a healthy lifestyle. The American Dental Association, along with your local dentists of the Nueces Valley District Dental Society, urges you to make healthy habits a priority.
I am happy to be able to convey this PSA to the good people of Corpus Christi. For more information on dental health and diabetes, visit www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diabetes.
– Brush for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
– Floss daily.
– Maintain a healthy diet.
– Visit your dentist regularly.
Kenneth Gonzales, DDS, PLLC, practices at 7426 S. Staples St., Ste. 101, in Corpus Christi, Texas. For more information, visit www.gonzalessmiles.com or call 361-510-8965.