In the United States, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death. Millions of individuals suffer from the condition marked by fluctuations in blood sugar levels and new research has shown that dentists can be instrumental in pinpointing undiagnosed pre-diabetes or diabetes in patients.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.8 million people have been diagnosed with varying levels of diabetes while 7 million individuals are unknowingly walking around with the condition. WebMD.com suggests that 57 million Americans are pre-diabetic (having higher than average blood sugar levels).
When left unchecked and untreated, diabetes can cause a slew of health conditions including kidney failure, amputation of lower-limb, vision loss, heart disease and periodontal disease. New research conducted by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine have shown that regular dentist visits can help identify the disease in individuals unaware that they are suffering from the medical hindrance.
Diabetes is considered to be the most common endocrine system disorder. The disease characterized by a lack of insulin production in the body which in turn causes rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetics are born with the inability to produce insulin while those inflicted with Type 2 diabetes are unable to naturally self-regulate insulin levels thanks to unhealthy life style choices and other factors. The condition can be managed by implementing glycemic control and no matter the diabetes "type," dentistry can be instrumental in managing the condition.
Studies have suggested that one-third of diabetics or pre-diabetes are unknowingly walking around with the disease. Research conducted at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine have shown that dentists can serve a vital role in helping manage the nation's struggle with the epidemic.
The study analyzed the oral health condition of around 600 group participants. Test subjects were comprised of non-Hispanic or whites 40-years-old or older and Hispanic or non-white 30-years-old or older. All group participants had no prior diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Of those subjects, the 530 individuals who reported having high-risk diabetic factors such as family history of the disease, obesity, high cholesterol or hypertension were given both a periodontal exam and "...a fingerstick, point-of-care hemoglobin A1c test," (http://www.dental-tribune.com/articles/content/scope/news/region/usa/id/5265). In order to properly evaluate the results of that test subjects were also required to undergo a fasting plasma glucose test to determine if they were pre-diabetic or diabetic.
Within that faction of study participants, researchers determined that by comparing the number of missing teeth with the percentage of deep periodontal pockets dentists could easily determine patients with previously unrecognized pre-diabetes or diabetes.
In regards to oral health, the constant changes in blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can cause dental problems including dry mouth, gingivitis, periodontitis, slow tissue healing, burning mouth syndrome and oral thrush. The diabetes/dental health connection is strong as when an individual has any type of infection the body produces cytokines protein in defense. The additional protein production will increase insulin resistance and make it extremely difficult to control blood sugars and can hinder the body's natural healing abilities in regards to gum disease. Overall, gum disease can negatively affect diabetes creating a vicious cycle of declining health.
Regardless of health everyone can benefit from dental care including brushing, flossing and regular dental visits. However for diabetics or those having earliest stages of the condition, dental hygiene is vital to survival. Diabetics are advised to quit smoking as that habit can make the odds of developing dental problems 20 times greater (http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-health-dental-care-diabetes). Additionally, denture wearing diabetics must clean them daily to lower the odds of developing any of the aforementioned conditions.
If you are suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes 1-800-DENTIST can help you find a dentist well skilled at managing your medical condition. Once a dental appointment is scheduled, diabetic dental patients must share their medical status with their dentist and provide their dental care provider with the contact information of their diabetes doctor, just in case. As always, managing blood sugar levels is the key to controlling diabetes.