By Dr. James E. Thommes, Vice President, Clinical Management, DentaQuest
On the tails of American Diabetes Month and ahead of the New Year, we want to take a moment to raise awareness about the disease that impacts nearly 30 million children and adults across the United States. And, frankly, diabetes is an even bigger epidemic than that statistic reveals - another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
So what’s the connection between diabetes and oral health?
Many people don’t know that there’s actually a very direct connection between diabetes and oral health. People with diabetes may experience more severe periodontitis, otherwise known as gum disease, because diabetes lowers the body’s ability to resist infection and slows healing.
Additionally, gum disease can make diabetes more difficult to control as blood sugar levels spike throughout the body. People with diabetes can also experience thrush, a mouth infection, among other oral health issues.
The millions of Americans across the country with diabetes already have a lot to manage, but it’s important to also remember dental hygiene, since it’s so directly connected to the disease. Health care providers, advocates and other stakeholders have an important part to play when it comes to raising awareness of diabetes and its connection to oral health, along with helping diabetics manage the disease.
How can we shine the light on the connection between diabetes and oral health?
At DentaQuest, we are helping bridge the gap of understanding, and the gap between dental and overall health. One key way to achieve this is by teaching dentists to uncover possible signs of diabetes during routine dental exams. Dentists can play an important role in spotting undiagnosed diabetes and helping manage the oral health effects of the disease.
On the other hand, if a physician spots the disease first, he or she can educate the patient about its potential impact on oral health, too, and the important steps the patient should take to maintain oral health.
Another key strategy to spotlight the connection between diabetes and oral health is through consumer education. With a new diagnosis of diabetes occurring every 19 seconds in the U.S., we also must educate consumers and raise awareness beyond American Diabetes Month.
With this in mind, we encourage you to share information about the topic including our free infographic flyer and answers to common questions about the connection between oral health.