diabetes and oral health

Case Study: Diabetes and Oral Health Concerns

There is a growing connection between diabetes and oral health, affecting millions of people. Incidence rates are projected to increase in the years to come. 

Diabetes is a serious condition that affects over 30 million Americans. Further, an additional 85 million Americans suffer from pre-diabetes. Dentists need to be aware of risks caused by diabetes, which includes patient education.

Diabetes and Oral Health Concerns

Unfortunately, diabetes rates have been steadily increasing. In 1995, 4% of Americans suffered from diabetes. As of 2015, 9.4% of Americans suffered from the disease. Diabetes rates are likely to remain high and could continue to increase.

In fact, projections suggest that by 2050, diabetes will affect 20 to 33% of the American adult population

Diabetes Can Increase Specific Risks to Oral Health

A recent study suggests that diabetes, in combination with other factors, can decrease oral health.

In order to understand the impact of diabetes on patients, let’s review “Oral Health Related Quality of Life in Diabetic Patients”. Researchers found that specific factors in combination with diabetes increased the risk of poor Oral Health Related Quality of Life (OHRQL). These factors include:

  • Low educational levels
  • Knowledge of the link between diabetes and oral complications
  • The length of time diagnosed with diabetes
  • Being referred for dental visits by their physicians
  • Frequency of brushing

This study also found that the risks of lower OHRQL increased specifically among older individuals who suffered from diabetes. As people age, the complications associated with diabetes will only increase. As patients age, ensuring excellent oral health becomes more difficult even if the patient doesn’t suffer from diabetes. Dentists need to be prepared for aging populations.

Focusing on Patient Education to Minimize Risks

There are many important considerations regarding diabetes and oral health from this dental study. Perhaps the most important consideration, however, is how vital education is for dental patients.

Dentists must focus on providing their patients with not just excellent dental care, but must also impart dental-specific knowledge, focusing on diabetes and oral heath. These patients need to be aware of the risks to their dental health.

Dental experts cite other specific risks for oral health related quality of life among diabetic patients.

Anita Mark outlines several specific risks for diabetic patients in JADA. It’s important for dentists to understand these risks and how they relate to diabetic patients.

  • Increased risk of gum disease and especially periodontitis, which can lead to further complications, such as tooth loss.
  • Diabetic patients report suffering from dry mouth. Saliva provides fluoride for teeth and cleans debris. Dry mouth can deprive patients of these benefits.
  • Diabetes slows down the healing process for injuries. Given that our mouths are filled with bacteria and other microbes, this creates considerable risks.
  • Diabetic patients may be more likely to develop thrush, a painful fungal infection that can cause red and white patches to form on your tongue and the insides of your cheeks.

Diabetic patients must be properly educated on how to care for their own oral health. These risks should be taken seriously, and this begins with education. Dentists should pay particular attention to diabetic patients in order to increase education and focus on prevention.

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