***UPDATED: January 29, 2016*** According to a recent Medscape article, 70% of adults visit the dentist each year, while only 20% of them visit a medical provider in the same time frame. This gives dentists a unique opportunity to identify systemic diseases, like diabetes, that present themselves in the mouth and may otherwise go unnoticed. A study conducted in Japan recently examined whether or not general dentists can contribute to the detection of undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes by monitoring blood glucose levels. 716 patients participated, completing a questionnaire about medical history and nonfasting samples of finger capillary blood were drawn. Blood glucose was measured along with periodontal pocket depth and resorption. 528 patients were diagnosed with periodontitis. Coincidently, or not, as the severity of periodontitis worsened, as did the mean blood glucose level of the patients, further proving the relationship between the two. With so many patients visiting their dentist, and not their primary care provider, dentists are definitely in a unique position to help identify and diagnose diabetes, as well as other systemic diseases.
Did you know that diabetes has been linked to oral health? If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is crucial that you put in the extra effort to take care of your teeth and gums. Diabetics are more susceptible to mouth infections, especially periodontal (gum) disease, which can damage the gum and bone that hold teeth in place. People with serious gum disease often experience tooth loss and painful chewing problems. Periodontal disease may also make it difficult to control blood sugar levels.
In addition to gum disease, people living with diabetes are at a higher risk of other oral health issues. Dry mouth, a condition where not enough saliva is produced in the mouth, commonly occurs, as does a fungal infection called thrush. Because diabetes can cause the glucose level in your saliva to increase, the white, painful patches associated with thrush may become present in the mouth. The good news is that by controlling blood glucose and following a recommended oral hygiene routine of brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly, these and other problems can often times be avoided. Also, if you regularly use tobacco products, now is the best time to quit. Smoking will only exacerbate an existing issue. Pay close attention to your mouth, and if you notice anything out of the ordinary, bleeding, dryness, pain, white patches, a bad taste in the mouth, contact your dentist at once. While diabetes can cause serious oral health problems, you can still do something about it.
Written by Mark Paulsort
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