Did you know that diabetes and oral health are related? You might be surprised to hear, but it’s true.
November is National Diabetes Month, which is the perfect time to learn about how diabetes affects oral health and vice versa. Preventing diabetes—or effectively managing the disease—helps improve overall health and wellness, which includes teeth and gum health.
Here’s what you (and your colleagues) need to know about the link between diabetes and oral health, as well as tips for preventing more serious issues from developing.
Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects your body’s ability to properly process insulin (type 2 diabetes) or hinders your body from producing enough insulin (type 1 diabetes). Insulin is a hormone needed to absorb and control sugar in your blood. Type 2 diabetes is commonly associated with obesity, and type 1 diabetes is likely due to genetic factors.
Poorly controlled blood sugar increases your risk of developing chronic health problems such as heart disease, kidney damage, depression, issues with circulation and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as nerve and vision problems. Accordingly, it’s important to keep your blood sugar within a normal range in order to lower your chance of developing these—and other—complications of diabetes.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease—also referred to as gum disease—is a gum infection caused by plaque buildup that can range from mild to severe on a case-by-case basis. When left untreated, plaque on teeth eventually hardens into tartar, which irritates the gums and can cause redness, tenderness, swollen gums, loose teeth and gum recession. Severe gum disease can also lead to tooth loss, making it even more important to adhere to a regular dental hygiene regimen.
How Common Is Gum Disease in Diabetics?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), about 22 percent of people with diabetes also suffer from periodontal disease. Tooth loss is common among people with diabetes. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Endocrinology found that just 6.4 percent of the diabetes patients studied still had all 32 of their natural teeth.
Can Diabetes Cause Gum Disease?
There’s no doubt that diabetes and gum disease are linked. However, the ADA suggests the relationship is a two-way street. For example, people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, and likewise, severe gum disease can affect blood sugar levels and exacerbate diabetes symptoms.
The ADA says one reason people with diabetes have a higher risk of oral health problems is because they have a decreased ability to fight off mouth bacteria that invade gums, and are more susceptible to bacterial infections.
How Diabetics Can Protect Oral Their Health
If you have diabetes, blood sugar control is crucial in order to avoid the serious complications that uncontrolled diabetes can cause. If you have a mild form of diabetes known as “prediabetes,” you can reverse the condition before full-blown diabetes develops. Use the following healthy lifestyle strategies to do so:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Control carbohydrate and added sugar intake.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese.
- Exercise regularly.
- Routinely monitor blood sugar levels.
There are also some precautions you can take to reverse gum disease before it becomes severe. These include:
- Brushing twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste.
- Flossing every day.
- Attending regular dental cleanings and checkups.
- Not smoking.
- Steering clear of added sugars.
Accommodating Diabetic Colleagues
Let’s face it, diabetes is a common chronic disease; it currently affects nearly 10 percent of people in the United States! Accommodating diabetic employees in the workplace means getting the word out about the connection between diabetes and oral health as well as the importance of good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. You can make a difference within your organization by introducing an employee wellness program and offering healthy foods in the office.
Interested in exploring dental insurance plans to find the best benefits for your company? Visit United Concordia Dental’s website to learn about its various offerings.