Held the last Tuesday of March each year, American Diabetes Association Alert Day encourages everyone to:
- Understand their risk for diabetes and
- Teach those around them about reversing that risk.
The American Diabetes Association writes that, “One in three Americans is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a serious disease that can lead to complications such as kidney disease, blindness, and amputations. But type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be permanent – it can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle modifications.”
One key player in helping you spot diabetes risk factors is your dentist. Dentists and diabetes may seem like an unlikely pair, but dentists are specially trained on what to look for because of the effect diabetes has on teeth and gums. It’s equally important to watch for lifestyle habits that may increase the risk for diabetes, as well.
Make sure you’re up to date on your dental check-ups and take a moment to learn more about the link between the dentist, diabetes and you.
Dental Patients with Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common types of chronic diseases in America, which is why it’s important to understand the effect diabetes has on teeth and gums. About 1.7 million new cases are diagnosed each year. That’s on top of the 30.3 million Americans who are already living with diabetes. If that doesn’t grab your attention, consider this: 23.8% of people with diabetes are undiagnosed.
Almost one-quarter of individuals with diabetes don’t know they have it. That’s why we’re bringing your attention to diabetes and dental health. Your dentist can help you watch out for the warning signs, which affect every part of your body.
If diabetes is left untreated, it can increasingly affect your mouth over time:
- You may experience a dry mouth from less production of saliva.
- Since saliva protects teeth, dry mouth makes your risk for cavities higher.
- Gum disease is common among dental patients with diabetes, which creates swelling, sensitivity and irritation along the gums.
- Your taste buds may not work as well.
- Wounds or mouth sores may have delayed healing, which may make you more prone to infections inside the mouth.
- Children with diabetes can have teeth erupt earlier than normal.
One reason to visit the dentist twice per year is that the dentist can get a better look at the inside of your mouth than anyone else. Nearly 22% of those diagnosed with diabetes have periodontal disease, which occurs when bacteria are left alone long enough to burrow into your gums, creating inflammation and irritation.
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 may help reduce a diabetic patient’s risk factors for unhealthy glucose levels.
Know Your Risk of Developing Diabetes
Three elements key to preventing diabetes are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight,
- Eating well and
- Being active.
About one in three adults older than 18 are prediabetic, meaning their blood sugar is between 140 and 199 after repeating the initial test. Use this body mass index scale to find out if you or someone you know is overweight, which can contribute to the development of diabetes.
Are you exercising 30 minutes a day? Almost 41% of individuals diagnosed with diabetes between 2011 and 2014 were inactive adults who got less than 10 minutes a week of moderate physical activity. Of those diagnosed, 73.6% had high blood pressure, another risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes. Many factors influence your health, which is why it’s important to visit both your doctor and your dentist regularly to monitor your blood pressure, glucose levels, weight, dental health and more.
The American Diabetes Association created an award-winning tool called the “Diabetes Risk Test,” a unique risk assessment tool that takes a closer look at your lifestyle, family history and other factors that could affect your wellness. We encourage you to take advantage of the tool to evaluate your risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Share Diabetes Awareness
Use this test from the American Diabetes Association to better understand your risk of diabetes. After you’ve assessed your own risk for diabetes, share these tools and tips with your co-workers, friends and family. Learn more about exploring and lowering your risk for developing diabetes at www.diabetes.org.
For more information about the connection between diabetes and your oral health, CLICK HERE.