Diabetes: A link between oral and overall health?

December 10, 2004

Diabetes affects 18.2 million people in the United States and is expected to double by the year 2010. Additionally, diabetics who do not have good control over their blood sugar levels are more susceptible to oral health problems than non-diabetics, according to a study that appears in the November/December 2004 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal.

"Oral health symptoms of diabetics include dry mouth, periodontal (gum) disease, oral infections, cavities and delayed wound healing," says Robert E. Rada, DDS, MBA, co-author of the study.

When salivary glands do not work properly, dry mouth occurs, which leads to decay and other oral health problems. Diabetics can prevent dry mouth by increasing water intake, chewing sugarless gum and visiting a dentist regularly for personalized treatment options.

Also, diabetics have an increased risk for developing periodontal disease, a result from gingivitis. Bacteria in plaque can cause inflamed gums, which can destroy tissues surrounding the teeth, gum and bone.

"Most of the time periodontal disease is treatable. I suggest patients get their diabetes and diet under control and visit the dentist more frequently for proper cleanings," says Eric Shapira, DDS, MAGD, and AGD spokesperson.

Wound healing time is another major concern for diabetics because of elevated blood sugar levels. "Gum disease, sores-everything will heal slower for patients with diabetes. Dentists may prescribe antibiotics to speed up healing time if needed," says Dr. Rada.

Make morning appointments because blood glucose levels tend to be under better control at this time of day. Dental procedures should be as short and as stress free as possible.

Patients that have a scheduled appointment should eat and take medications as directed. In addition, it is best to follow a normal daily routine and stay relaxed to prevent a hypoglycemic reaction.

If blood sugar is not under control, a patient should talk with both their dentist and physician about receiving elective dental care.
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The AGD is a non-profit organization of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient's oral health

Academy of General Dentistry

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