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Dentists, Diabetes, and You: Effects Diabetes has on Teeth and Gums

By Shelby Tatomir on March 26, 2019 in Dental Health


dental patients with diabetes

Held the last Tuesday of March each year, American Diabetes Association Alert Day encourages everyone to:

1. Understand their risk of diabetes and
2. Teach those around them in the workplace or in the community about reversing the risk for diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association writes that, “One in three Americans is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a serious disease that can lead to complications such as kidney disease, blindness, and amputations. But type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be permanent – it can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle modifications.”

One key player in helping you spot diabetes-risk factors is your dentist. Dentists and diabetes may seem like an unlikely pair, but there are many dental patients with diabetes. Dentists are specially trained on what to look out for because of the effect diabetes has on teeth and gums. It’s equally important that you look out for lifestyle habits that may lead to diabetes, as well.

Today, make sure you’re up on your dental check-ups and take a moment to learn more about the link between the dentist, diabetes, and you.

Dental Patients with Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common types of chronic diseases in America, which is why it’s important to understand the effect diabetes has on teeth and gums. Around 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed each year. That’s on top of the 30.3 million Americans who are already living with diabetes. If that doesn’t grab your attention, consider this: 23.8 percent of people with diabetes are undiagnosed.

Almost one-quarter of individuals with diabetes don’t even know it. That’s why we’re bringing your attention to diabetes and dental health. Your dentist can help you watch out for the warning signs, which affect every part of your body.

If diabetes is left untreated, it can increasingly affect your mouth over time:

You may experience a dry mouth from less production of saliva.

  • Since saliva protects teeth, dry mouth makes your risk for cavities higher.
  • Gum disease is common among dental patients with diabetes, which creates swelling, sensitivity, and irritation along the gums.
  • Your taste buds may not work as well.
  • Wounds or mouth sores may have delayed healing.
  • This makes you more prone to infections inside the mouth.
  • Children with diabetes can have teeth erupt earlier than is typical.

One reason to keep up on dental appointments twice a year is that the dentist can get a much better look at the inside of your mouth than anyone else. Nearly 22 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes have what occurs when gum disease isn’t relieved, which is called periodontal disease. This is when bacteria are left alone long enough to burrow into your gums, creating inflammation and irritation.

Maintaining good dental health habits and receiving professional deep cleanings from your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c, or your average blood glucose levels. It’s a two-way street! Though dental patients with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, dental cleanings help reduce a diabetic patient’s risk factors for unhealthy glucose levels.

Know Your Risk of Developing Diabetes

Three elements key to preventing diabetes are:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight,
  • Eating well
  • and being active.

About one in three adults over 18 are prediabetic, meaning their blood sugar is between 140 and 199 after repeating the initial test. Use this body mass index scale to find out if you or someone you love is overweight, which contributes to the development of diabetes.

Are you exercising 30 minutes a day? 40.8 percent of individuals diagnosed with diabetes between 2011 and 2014 were inactive adults who got less than 10 minutes a week of moderate physical activity. 73.6 percent of those diagnosed had high blood pressure, another risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Many factors influence your health, which is why it’s important to visit both your doctor and your dentist regularly to monitor your blood pressure, glucose levels, weight, dental health, and more.

In 2013, the American Diabetes Association created an award-winning tool called the “My Health Advisor,” which is a unique risk assessment tool that takes a closer look at your lifestyle, family history, and other factors that could affect your wellness. We encourage you to also take advantage of the My Health Advisor tool to evaluate your risk for severe health problems quickly.

Share Diabetes Awareness in the Workplace/Your Community

Be sure to use this test from the American Diabetes Association to better understand your risk of diabetes. After you’ve assessed your own risk for diabetes using the tools provided here, you’ll surely be more knowledgeable on the subject. Share these tools and tips with your co-workers, friends, and family. The more awareness we can spread around American Diabetes Association Alert Day, the more prepared we will all be to lower our risk of developing this chronic, harmful disease.

Learn more about exploring and lowering your risk for developing diabetes at www.diabetes.org.