Diabetes and Your Dentist

November is National Diabetes Month. If you or a loved one has diabetes or is at risk for diabetes, understanding the connection between dental health and diabetes is an essential part of managing your condition. First Choice Dental is committed to helping our patients not only manage their dental health, but their overall health too. When it comes to diabetes, we want to help you understand the symptoms and dental recommendations.

In many cases oral health is clearly linked to overall health. One of the clearest links is between periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. First Choice Dental hygienists are trained to identify symptoms of diabetes that may present in the mouth, even before the patient is diagnosed.  If our dentists or hygienists notice increased pocketing, or increased bleeding of the gums, both symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes, they will recommend that you consult with your physician. First Choice Dental recommends that patients with diabetes see a dentist or hygienist four times per year for cleanings and periodontal disease management. By being proactive in their dental care, patients can avoid unnecessary complications from diabetes.

Early Warning Signs for those at risk of developing diabetes.
Dr. David Gundersen, a dentist with First Choice Dental says, “Often our gums are like a canary in a coal mine, when it comes to diseases like diabetes.”  He explains, “The earliest signs of diabetes can manifest in the gums and teeth before a patient has other obvious physical symptoms.” Some of the more common early oral markers of diabetes are:

  • marked increase in decay
  • sudden onset of gingivitis and periodontal disease,
  • recurrent sores
  • burning feeling in mouth

One of the reasons your dentist is such an important part of your health care team when it comes to diabetes is how often you see your dentist. Today it is estimated that six million people have undiagnosed diabetes, and according to the American Journal of Public Health, approximately 20 million Americans saw a dentist in 2008 but did not see a primary care physician.

Dr. Gundersen says, “That’s why it is important for dentists and their patients to have an active partnership in the patients’ overall health care.”  Because diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, and the mouth is an access point for bacteria or inflammation that may worsen diabetes, it is important for patients to include dental care in their diabetes management.

Specific things you can do are to make sure you schedule dental checkups every six months. If you show signs of periodontal health issues, your dentist may recommend visits every three months. You should also make sure to floss and brush regularly, and consider talking to your dentist about periodontal wellness services they offer. Gundersen said, "Most people don't realize how integral gum health is to overall health. We can help patients make sure that their gum health contributes to oral health and overall health."

If you or someone you love has diabetes, talk to your dentist to learn how you can maintain optimal oral health.

Schedule your appointment with First Choice Dental online today. Or visit our Locations page for an office near you.