Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why is National Diabetes Month Important to Oral Health Professionals?

Guest blog post by Dr. Linda Vidone, DentaQuest Dental Director and Periodontist

This month marks National Diabetes Month, an important month designated by the American Diabetes Association to focus the nation's attention on the issues surrounding diabetes and the many people who are impacted by the disease. During November, most efforts by health professionals surrounding Diabetes Awareness Month concentrate on nutrition, self-care, weight loss and other common methods to avoid or improve people’s management of diabetes.

While these health considerations are important, often overlooked is the strong link between oral health and diabetes. Despite research showing people with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have more destructive forms of periodontal disease than people without diabetes, caring for the mouth when treating diabetes is often disregarded by physicians, who tend to focus on other more noticeable diabetes complications.

This is particularly alarming because new data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), published in the August 2012 Journal of Dental Research, revealed more adults have periodontal disease than dentists originally thought.  While most surveyed dentists believed 30% of adults suffered from periodontal disease, the new data shows one out of every two American adults aged 30 and older today suffer from periodontal disease.

Here are some other surprising facts and figures from the report:
  • Over 64 million Americans have some form of periodontal disease.
  • In adults 65 and older, the rate of periodontal disease increases to 70 percent. 
  • Rates of periodontal disease are especially high among current smokers, those living below the federal poverty level, and those with less than a high school education.

The CDC National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey will continue to watch for periodontal disease in U.S adults through the 2014. This information will guide public health policy decisions including prevention and treatment recommendations. 

As noted in the study, early detection of periodontal disease is important and your oral health care provider can help you manage diabetes impact on oral health.  If untreated, however, periodontal disease infections can lead to serious health problems.

Should you be worried?
  • Are your gums puffy?
  • Do you spit out blood when you brush or floss your teeth?
  • Do you have bad breath? 

These are all signs of periodontal disease. Talk to your oral health care provider if you experience any of them, particularly if you have diabetes.

Most importantly, celebrate American Diabetes Month with us and spread the word to someone you know about the connection between diabetes and oral health. For more information about diabetes, visit American Diabetes Association website at