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During National Diabetes Month, Delta Dental encourages people with diabetes to make regular dentist visits

November 6, 2012

Delta Dental of California, Delta Dental Insurance Company, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania and affiliated companies in 15 states remind people during National Diabetes Month this November that regular dental visits are crucial for people with diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that increases the risk for many serious health problems, including severe gum disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 26 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Even more troubling, another 57 million – about a fourth of U.S. adults – have pre-diabetes, which means their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association calls controlling blood sugar levels key to preventing many serious complications of diabetes such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Research also suggests a two-way relationship between serious periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to severe gum disease, but also the disease potentially affects blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.1 People with diabetes tend to develop periodontal disease earlier in life, and more severely. Tooth loss from gum disease that might occur when many people reach their 60s can occur for many diabetics while still in their 40s. Smokers with diabetes are especially at risk for gum disease and tooth loss.

Unfortunately, studies show that people with diabetes see their dentist less often than those without the disease.2 Dentist visits are crucial because oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease are often reversible if diagnosed early and preventive care is provided. Dentists also check for other common mouth conditions that afflict people with diabetes such as dry mouth, ulcers and infections. Mouth conditions may also be a sign that other medical conditions exist elsewhere in the body. Depending on their findings, the dentist might advise patients to seek medical attention.

“Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups and good blood glucose control are the best defenses against periodontal disease,” said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, vice president for dental science and policy for the nationwide Delta Dental Plans Association. “In addition, quitting smoking may be the most important thing that people can do to protect their oral and overall health.”

The good news is that with proper dental hygiene at home and regular visits to the dentist (at least twice annually), there’s no reason people with diabetes should have worse oral health than people without.

About Delta Dental
Delta Dental Insurance Company, Delta Dental of California, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania, and several other companies under common management provide dental benefits to 26 million people in 15 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. All are part of the not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association (www.deltadental.com), based in Oak Brook, Ill., the leading national network of independent dental service corporations. Collectively, they provide dental benefits programs to more than 60 million people nationwide.

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1 American Diabetes Association. News and Research. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/oral-health-faqs.html Accessed October 2012.

2 Macek MD, Tomar SL. Dental care visits among dentate adults with diabetes and periodontitis. J Public Health Dent. 2009 Fall;69(4):284-9.

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