N.C. Dental Society: Diabetics at greater risk for oral problems

From the press release from the North Carolina Dental Society:

Cary , N.C. – There are 25.8 million Americans afflicted with diabetes and 1.6 million new cases diagnosed each year, according the Centers for Disease Control.

The health effects of diabetes can be devastating and often impact oral health. “Diabetes makes it more difficult for a person to fight germs, including those in the mouth,” said Asheville, N.C., dentist Dr. Eric Dollinger. “That’s why periodontal (gum) disease is more common in people with diabetes.”

According to Dr. Dollinger, among young adults those with diabetes have about twice the risk of gum disease as those without the disease. Adults aged 45+ with poorly controlled diabetes are 2.9 times more likely to have severe periodontitis, or inflammation of the gums, than those without diabetes. Smokers with uncontrolled diabetes have a 4.6 times greater likelihood of gum disease.

“Gum disease of this nature often results in loss of attachment of gums to the teeth resulting in tooth loss. Also, oral pathogens can enter the bloodstream and be transmitted to other parts of the body, including vital organs such as the heart,” Dr. Dollinger said.

Infections traveling to the rest of the body can inflame blood vessels and cause arterial plaque build up in the heart and brain resulting in a stroke.

But there are other oral side effects of diabetes. “Fungal infections, such as thrush, can be aggravated by high blood sugar levels or frequent antibiotic use. Both are common in people with diabetes,” Dr. Dollinger said.

“Poor healing increases the chances of infection after dental surgery. Dry mouth is another problem because reduced saliva increases the risk of cavities, gum disease and salivary gland infections.”

Some other consequences of diabetes include:

· Rapid tooth decay

· Tartar buildup that can cause chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth

· Oral candidiasis, a fungal infection of the mouth

· Taste impairment, especially for sweets

· Inflammatory skin disease that can cause ulcers in the mouth.

“It’s really important that people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels, practice good oral care at home and have regular dental checkups, including X-rays and periodontal examinations. Regular cleanings in a dental office are essential.”

Additional information on diabetes and oral health can be found at www.ada.org or visit www.ncdental.org for informational links.

The N.C. Dental Society represents 3,500 dentists throughout North Carolina. The NCDS encourages improvement of the oral health of the public, promotes the art and science of dentistry, sustains high standards of professional competence and practice, and represents the interests of the members of the dental profession and the public which it serves.


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