Why your dentist needs to know if you have diabetes
Oral health professionals can help with a number of critical issues, such as BGL medication, writes Professor Mark Bartold
When you think about health professionals who can help manage chronic diseases, your dentist is probably not high on the list. However, if you look at diabetes as an example, evidence indicates that your oral health professional should be an important player on your health-care team, and not just to look after your mouth.
In fact, an oral health professional can often help people with diabetes improve their long-term general health outcomes, including managing their blood glucose levels.
The prevalence of diabetes in Australia is of significant concern. 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, with more than 100,000 developing the disease in the past year alone. While in itself, managing diabetes is a never-ending juggling act, managing the risk of the many health issues associated with diabetes can become overwhelming. These include (but are not limited to) cardiovascular disease, nerve and kidney damage, skin conditions, and oral health issues.
There are a number of oral health issues that can impact people with diabetes. These include gum disease, gum abscesses (infection of the gums), dry mouth, tooth decay and mouth ulcers, to name a few. Let’s look at why people with diabetes are more prone to developing these issues. Potential reasons why people with diabetes are prone to specific oral health issues can include the use of certain medications and the fact that foods and beverages used to treat hypos (hypoglycaemia – when a person’s blood glucose level drops too low) are high in sugar and can lead to tooth decay. However, perhaps the main culprit is poorly managed blood glucose levels.
Poor glucose control can result in damage to blood vessels, making infections of the soft tissue (gum) and bone that supports the teeth more likely. When blood glucose levels are not well-managed there is heightened risk of infections. Other oral health issues like dry mouth can also occur when blood glucose levels are elevated.
We know that diabetic management and oral health management is a two-way street. Poorly controlled diabetes can affect the mouth, but you might be surprised by the degree to which poorly managed oral health issues can negatively impact diabetic control.
Evidence is now indicating that severe periodontal disease (periodontal refers to structures around the teeth including gums, ligaments and bone) can actually increase blood glucose levels. Evidence also leads
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