Gingivitis and Diabetes: A Common Connection

***UPDATED: March 18, 2014*** There are over 25 million Americans suffering with diabetes currently, and nearly 7 million of them don’t even know it.  Early diagnosis of diabetes is critical in order to treat and avoid more serious, sometimes fatal conditions, such as kidney failure, blindness, and increased risk for stroke and heart disease.  Simple and fast diabetes testing has been a hot topic in the medical industry for quite some time as professionals work to make diagnosis as easy and accessible as possible.  An example of such work is out of the University of Buffalo, where researchers have published a piece on the diabetic HbA1c blood test, and more specifically, its feasibility of being administered chair side in dental practices.   This particular test is considered essential because its results can “reflect an individual’s blood sugar control anywhere from four weeks to three months-not just that day.  It also doesn’t require fasting and can be done with a finger stick.” For more information on the research conducted, see this recent Dental Tribune article.

As the month of October winds down, November brings promises of cooler temperatures, more college football, and of course, a favorite American holiday, Thanksgiving.  November also marks American Diabetes Month in an effort to raise awareness of this growing health concern.  Oral health and overall wellness have been linked through several chronic illnesses, and one organization is taking this opportunity to discuss the specifics of the connection between oral disease and diabetes.  The Dental Tribune America article, “Periodontists explain connection between periodontal disease and diabetes,” details this important relationship.

According to Dr. Scott Zirkin, president of the New Jersey Society of Periodontists (NJSP) those suffering from diabetes are at a higher risk for developing many different infections, including periodontal disease.  Zirkin explains that these infections can interfere with the use of insulin, making it more difficult to control the diabetes and produce more severe infection symptoms.  A recent study, found in the Journal of Periodontology, showed that poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes patients are more susceptible to developing periodontal disease than their well-controlled diabetic counterparts.  Zirkin continues by stressing the mouth/body connection and urging all Americans to not underestimate the link.  It has been proven that diabetic patients with periodontal disease are able to control the management of their diabetes much better when their infection is being treated.  The relationship between both health conditions is undeniable and should be discussed with patients by both their dentist and physician.  Education is crucial in stopping both of these national epidemics.

According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately half of Americans suffer from oral disease.  Periodontal disease, or gingivitis, is an infection that causes inflammation of the gums and can destroy the structures that support teeth.  It can be caused by the long-term effects of plaque deposits on the teeth, which if left untreated, can cause the gums to become infected, swollen, and tender.   If your dentist detects gingivitis early enough, treatment is typically simple with favorable results.  Prevention is easily achieved by practicing good oral hygiene (brushing twice a day and flossing regularly) as well as visiting your dentist bi-annually for professional cleanings and evaluations.  If you experience red, swollen gums, especially if you have not visited your dentist in the last 6 months, it is advised to contact your health care provider.  Even if you’re not experiencing these common symptoms, consider celebrating American Diabetes Month with a trip to your local dentist; better to be safe than sorry!

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