Chew on This

Diabetes poses a risk factor for tooth decay and gum disease. However, many people with diabetes are in the dark concerning this fact.

In a study published in the September 2000 issue of Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), Paul A. Moore, DMD, PhD, MPH, and colleagues at the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asked 390 adults with type 1 diabetes about their attitudes and practices regarding oral health. The results were compared to responses from more than 202 people without diabetes.

Nearly 45 percent of diabetic patients had developed a serious dental complication. Moore says this is because many type 1s do not take steps to prevent dental complications, which can include tooth loss, gingivitis and infections. Moore reported that type 1s frequently cited costs as a reason for avoiding regular dental exams.

According to the JADA report, gum disease and tooth loss can also compromise a person with diabetes’ ability to maintain healthy diets and stable blood sugar. Moore told Diabetes Health that cigarette smoking is also an important periodontal risk factor in type 1 diabetes.

“Although the significance of smoking may be equal in diabetic patients and healthy controls, having both risk factors appears summative,” says Moore.

Moore concludes that dentists have an opportunity and responsibility to promote good oral health behaviors such as regular dental examinations, proper oral hygiene and smoking cessation that may significantly affect the oral health of their diabetic patients.

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