Why is National Diabetes Month Important to Oral Health Professionals?

Most efforts by health professionals surrounding Diabetes Awareness Month concentrate on nutrition, but often overlooked is the strong link between oral health and diabetes.


Guest blog post by Dr. Linda Vidone, Delta Dental of Massachusetts 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 http://www.diabetes.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Greg Wu and Emerson Dental November 20, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Interesting article. What it fails to mention is the fact that patients with Diabetes should be seen every 3 months for hygiene visits. Three month recalls for Diabetic patients is extremely effective in preventing periodontal disease. However, Delta of MA does not cover those visits unless a patient has had "active periodontal therapy". Essentially, they won't cover 3 month recall appointments until there is disease. So much for the "Preventistry" they like to boast about.
Delta Dental of MA November 21, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Patients with diabetes and dental disease may need hygiene visits every three months. With our focus on preventive care, Delta Dental of Massachusetts covers multiple perio cleanings per year for patients who need them. If you’d like to talk directly with us, feel free to contact Christina White at Christina.White@greatdentalplans.com


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