In the United States, one in ten people have diabetes. However, one in five people with the disease aren’t aware they do. This is concerning because without a diagnosis it can be hard to manage the condition.
While a medical doctor is often the first to see symptoms of diabetes, your dentist is another professional who can spot signs of the condition during your preventive checkups. Diabetes can have a serious impact on your oral health, therefore it’s important to properly manage the disease if you’re diagnosed.
Diabetes in the United States
Diabetes is one of the most common types of chronic disease in America, which is why it’s important to understand the effect of diabetes on oral health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 37.3 million people living in the U.S. have diabetes, yet only about half are officially diagnosed with the disease.
More shockingly, as many as 96 million Americans are prediabetic, meaning they have a higher than normal blood sugar but it’s not high enough to be considered diabetic.
The number of diabetes diagnoses is expected to dramatically increase in the United States during the next decade. Because of this, it’s important to keep track of any changes in your oral or physical health. Untreated diabetes can lead to serious medical complications and even death, therefore it’s vital to go to preventive medical and dental appointments where professionals can spot signs of the condition.
Although there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications.
Diabetes and oral health
Diabetes impacts many parts of the body, including the mouth and teeth. If diabetes is left untreated, patients may experience the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth due to less saliva production
- A higher risk of cavities and tooth decay
- Increased risk of developing gum disease
- A higher risk of developing an infection in the gum and bone that hold teeth in place
- Tooth loss
- Bad breath
During your bi-annual preventive check-ups, your dentist can keep tabs on any changes in your oral health that may indicate diabetes. Additionally, maintaining good dental health habits and receiving professional deep cleanings from your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c, or your average blood glucose levels.
It’s a two-way street! Though dental patients with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, dental cleanings help reduce a diabetic patient’s risk factors for unhealthy glucose levels.
Reducing your risk of diabetes
Preventing diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes, is one of the best ways to take care of your oral and physical health. Medical professionals recommend the following to reduce your risk of developing the disease:
- Eat more plant-based food such as leafy greens, legumes, fruits from trees, and whole grains
- Skip trendy diets and focus on maintenance
- Lose excess weight
- Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day
- Increase good fats, such as olive oil and nuts, in your diet
Dental appointments are important for oral and overall health
Visits with your dentist are important for oral and overall health. Not only do dentists keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy, but they are also on the lookout for changes in your overall health. Small changes in your mouth may not mean much to you, but for dentists they can indicate bigger problems such as diabetes, oral cancer, and other medical conditions.