Skip to main content

Diabetes Prevention is in Your Hands…and in Your Mouth!

By Jill Hamilton on November 21, 2011 in Dental Health

Older couple in park

I bet you think the only reason to brush your teeth is to keep those pearly whites clean and healthy. While that should be a good enough reason in itself, here is another: diabetes prevention! That's right, keeping your mouth healthy can help you prevent and control diabetes.

As the fifth deadliest disease in the United States, diabetes is an obvious concern for many retirees. In fact, about 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 have diabetes. There are many ways to help control diabetes and even decrease your chances of developing this disease including exercising, eating healthy and not smoking. While we all battle with our lifestyle habits, brushing and flossing your teeth and seeing a dentist are easy ways you can help beat diabetes.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. We have known for years that people with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease. So it makes sense that the opposite can also be true. Recent studies have revealed that gum disease is associated with increased risk for diabetes development and complications. This creates a downward cycle in which problems in one area can exacerbate the other.

Dentists are increasingly becoming a part of diabetes management teams. Why? Besides the obvious care dentists provide for your mouth, here are ways dentists can affect diabetes:

  • Dentists can help prevent diabetes. People with gum disease have a much greater chance of getting type 2 diabetes – up to two times greater than people with healthy gums. Your dentist can help your gums stay healthy which will help reduce your risk of diabetes.
  • Dentists can help diagnose diabetes. Because symptoms may be subtle, diabetes often goes unnoticed for years. The mouth can offer clear-cut signals that the disease is present, and your dentist is trained to spot these warning signs.
  • Dentists can help prevent and treat diabetes’ side effects. Diabetics often have problems with their teeth and gums due to high glucose levels which help bacteria thrive. Your dentist can help control these issues.
  • Dentists can help control diabetes. Studies suggest that diabetics with gum disease who receive more frequent dental cleanings are healthier and often experience a reduction in blood glucose levels. This is promising news considering early evidence suggests that for every one-point reduction in blood glucose levels, there is a 40% reduction in the risk for diabetic complications of the eye, kidney and nervous system. A one-point reduction also appears to decrease the incidence of heart attacks by 14% and diabetic-related deaths by 21%.

Recognizing the importance of managing the dental health of diabetics, many dental insurance companies now offer plans that allow patients with diabetes to see a dentist up to 4 times a year. Managing one can help manage the other helping patients improve their health, keep costs lower and have a better quality of life.

Click here for more information from the American Diabetes Association about the surprising link between dental health and diabetes. You can also ask their dentist your questions!