16 July 2012

Diabetics Pay a High Price for Neglecting Gum Disease

It's been known for quite a while that those who are diabetic are more likely to experience gum disease. However, in a study released in March 2012, the high price of ignoring gum disease became more evident, and the costs aren't associated with oral health alone. In a statement about the findings, the American Dental Association (ADA) said, "The results showed that hospitalizations decreased by 33 percent annually and physician visits by 13 percent in diabetics who treated and managed their periodontal disease over a three-year period, reducing their medical costs by around $1,800 per year per patient."

The American Diabetes Association also cites research that suggests that diabetes and gum disease are actually conditions that feed on each other that untreated gum disease can actually lead to a progression of the diabetic condition. While the studies aren't related, they certainly call attention to the fact that diabetics need to be especially attentive to developing gum disease. According to figures from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), diabetes affects 25.8 million people of all ages (more than 8% of the U.S. population), although less than 19 million people have actually been diagnosed with diabetes.

What Are the Signs of Gum (Periodontal) Disease?

First of all, don't think that gum disease only affects adults! Gum disease can begin to develop as early as age 6. Early stages of gum disease are not always obvious to people. That's why regular visits to your dentist are especially important if you are diabetic.

Early gum disease is called gingivitis, but it can quickly advance and cause more serious disease, called periodontitis which can lead to loss of teeth. Gum surgery can become necessary in order to save teeth. More obvious signs of gum disease include:

  • Tender, red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Gums that have started to recede from the teeth
  • Pockets forming around teeth where food gets trapped and contributes to disease
  • Pain when chewing
  • Permanent teeth that seem to be loose
  • Noticeable change in the way your teeth fit together, or how a bridge seems to fit
  • Bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
  • Pus coming from the gums when you press on them
What Other Oral Health Issues Are Associated with Diabetes?

In addition to gum disease, those who have diabetes may be prone to these conditions:

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia), which can be associated with salivary gland issues
  • Tooth decay, which also becomes more likely with dry mouth
  • Oral thrush a fungal infection
  • Mouth sores, caused by lichen planus - a skin disorder
  • Impaired ability to taste
What Can You Do to Help?

Take a proactive approach to managing your oral health. Don't wait for problems to develop; address them quickly if they do:

  • Have a dental checkup twice a month, and more frequent appointments for cleaning if recommended because of gum disease
  • Make sure that both your dentist and hygienist know about your diabetes diagnosis (or any other medical condition)
  • See your doctor as directed to make sure your diabetes is under control, and take medication as prescribed (Gum disease is more likely whenever insulin levels are not well regulated.)
  • If you notice changes occurring in your gums, contact your dentist right away
  • Keep your teeth clean, using a toothpaste that is recommended by the ADA to help prevent gingivitis
  • If you eat frequently in order to keep your insulin levels stable, try to at least rinse, if not brush, your teeth afterwards
  • Follow any special recommendations from both your doctor and dentist regarding your oral health
  • If you have developed serious gum disease and require oral surgery, consult closely with your physician and your dentist to select and control the best time to have the surgery

Maintaining good oral health and having regular dental checkups is especially important for diabetics. Studies are beginning to show that it can not only help you avoid expensive dental surgery and tooth replacement, it can also help you avoid unnecessary trips to your physician and to the hospital!

A leading Raleigh Dentist provided this information about dental care in the state of North Carolina. As a practicing Dentist in Raleigh NC his practice is committed to offering high quality dental services and exceptional patient care. The practice provides a wide variety of dental treatments.

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