The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 30 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes and 84 million people currently have prediabetes. This precursor to type-2 diabetes is a serious call to action since uncontrolled blood sugar levels can slow the body’s healing process and affect a person’s kidneys, heart and eyes. Interestingly, other studies are showing a clear connection between diabetes and gum disease.
In fact, one in five cases of total tooth loss is a result of diabetes, according to a report published by the American Dental Association. Other studies also suggest that prediabetes raises the risk for gum disease. In order to keep your colleagues informed and maintain productivity at the office, here’s what you need to know about the three conditions (and how they’re all connected).
Prediabetes vs. Diabetes
The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar to enter cells and be used for energy. If the cells don’t respond as they should, the pancreas makes more insulin to compensate; but eventually, it can’t keep up and blood sugar levels rise.
When glucose levels are higher than normal (but not yet at the point of being diagnosed as type-2 diabetes) the condition is considered prediabetes. Unfortunately, 90 percent of people with prediabetes aren’t even aware they have it, and the ailment can go undetected for years—only to be diagnosed when there are health problems or the condition has progressed into type-2 diabetes.
Who’s at Risk?
Prediabetes can be prevented, so it’s important that at-risk individuals are aware of both the condition itself and strategies for avoiding it. You and your coworkers should keep an eye out for these common risk factors from the CDC:
- Having a close relative (parent or sibling) with type-2 diabetes
- Being overweight
- Being over the age of 45
- Exercising less than three times a week
- Having a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant), or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
- Having polycystic ovary disease
Understanding these risk factors is the first step toward effectively addressing prediabetes within your workplace. It’s also important to note that American Indians, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders tend to have a higher risk of developing the condition.
Diabetes and Gum Disease Link
Due to the fact that people with diabetes are more prone to infections and a greater inflammatory response, the American Academy of Periodontology reports that they are more likely to have periodontal (gum) disease. In addition, these individuals often have more severe cases. The inflammation and infection from periodontal disease raises glucose levels, making it difficult for a diabetic to control the disease, which can lead to tooth loss if enough bone is destroyed around the teeth.
Some researchers believe that early signs of gum disease could be an indicator of prediabetes. A study in the Journal of Dental Research concluded that dentists could identify 73 percent of people with undiagnosed diabetes because they had some degree of periodontal disease. This would indicate that a dentist who sees signs of gum disease at a checkup might recommend their patient have their glucose levels checked.
What You and Your Colleagues Need to Do
Gum disease can worsen as a result of high blood sugar levels, and these levels can rise due to gum disease—putting a person at risk for diabetic complications. Therefore, it is critical that anyone diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes work with their doctor to decide how to best monitor and control their glucose levels. It’s also vital that they be treated for their periodontal disease.
You can spread this important message to all employees throughout your company via email blasts, bulletin board posts or brown bag seminars. Let everyone know they can easily prevent (or manage) these diseases as long as they are diligent about their blood sugar levels, eat nutritious foods, keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly. It’s also a good idea to encourage your coworkers to schedule dental checkups and cleanings at least twice a year, adhere to an impeccable care routine and quit smoking (if they smoke).
Finally, individuals should always inform their dentist if their blood sugar levels are up—although the dental professional may have already suspected by looking at their gums.
Looking to find the right dental plan for your organization? There are a lot of options out there. Take a moment to explore the Dental Plan Navigator hosted on United Concordia Dental’s website.