Diabetes and Your Oral Health

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. We are all aware that Diabetes is a growing epidemic in our nation, but do you know exactly what Diabetes looks like? For those that have been afflicted with the disease, they understand that it is more than just an inconvenience, it is a life altering, and in many cases, preventable disease. Diabetes causes more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Here are just a few of the recent statistics on diabetes from the American Diabetes Association:
• Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
• Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
• The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $174 billion.
Type 1 (formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes) is a genetic disease in which the body does not produce its own insulin. Insulin is the hormone that changes the sugars you eat into the energy that your body needs. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease, it is not preventable, but is treatable with insulin injections.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown, although excess weight and inactivity seem to be contributing factors. Over 80% of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, and those that exercise less than 3 times per week are 3 times more likely to develop the disease. Though the types of food you eat do not actually cause diabetes, what you choose to eat is directly related to your health and  your weight. If your diet is high in calories and unhealthy foods (sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats), your diet could be contributing to your diabetes risk. It is a common myth that diabetes is not a deadly disease, but that is far from the truth. Many serious complications such as heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease and neuropathy are associated with the disease. For more information on detection and prevention of Diabetes, visit http://www.diabetes.org.

So what does it mean for your dental health if you are diagnosed with diabetes?
According to the American Diabetic Association, if your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control. Other oral problems associated to diabetes include: thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.
People with diabetes have special needs and your dentist and hygienist are equipped to meet those needs – with your help. Keep your dentist and hygienist informed of any changes in your condition and any medication you might be taking. Postpone any non-emergency dental procedures if your blood sugar is not in good control and make sure to visit your dentist at regular 6 month intervals or more frequently if your dentist recommends that for you.

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