Delta Dental Cites Link Between Gum Disease, Diabetes

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PARSIPPANY – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimated that diabetes afflicts 26 million people in the United States. More than one out of three Americans age 20 or older has prediabetes. A lesser-known fact is that persons with diabetes are far more likely to suffer from periodontal (gum) diseases.

Besides being the 7th-leading cause of death, diabetes is also the leading cause of kidney failure, new cases of blindness, and lower limb amputations. The latest CDC data shows the direct medical cost of treating diabetes in the United States to be over $116 billion. That figure is just the valuation for treating actual diabetes; it does not include the cost of disability, work loss, and premature death. Otherwise, the predicted price rises to over $174 billion.

Despite public knowledge that obesity and bad nutritional habits can lead to serious lifestyle diseases, the CDC estimated that approximately four American adults over age 20 were diagnosed with diabetes every minute of every day in 2010.

Delta Dental of New Jersey, the state’s leading dental benefits provider, is reminding Americans during “National Diabetes Month” about the close relationship between poor oral health and diabetes.

A number of studies, including one from the University of Michigan, have found that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal (gum) disease and their condition was more advanced than those without diabetes. Persons with advanced periodontal disease are far more likely to lose teeth and require more extensive dental care.

“Recent research suggests a two-way connection between diabetes and gum disease,” said West Orange-based Andrew Greenberger, D.M.D., periodontist and participating Delta Dental dentist. “Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to periodontal disease, but the presence of periodontal disease may also make it more difficult for a person with diabetes to control their blood sugar. Good blood sugar control is very important to limiting the amount of damage that diabetes can do to many parts of the body. Proper care of the mouth that includes treatment of periodontal disease may help people with diabetes achieve better blood sugar control.”

Since oral health seems to be a good predictor of overall health, Delta Dental urges Americans to make sure they see a dentist for regular check-ups. Besides keeping your teeth and gums clean, your dentist can also screen you for serious oral health issues (such as gum disease or oral cancer) and check for signs of other medical conditions. If evidence of gum disease is found, he or she might direct you to get medical attention.

“The CDC estimates that 7 million people in the U.S. have undiagnosed diabetes along with the millions of others with prediabetes that are unaware of their condition,” said Mark Waltzer, D.M.D., F.A.G.D., Cherry Hill-based family dentist and participating Delta Dental dentist. “Conditions in your mouth can often reveal signs of more serious systemic illnesses such as diabetes. Through regular dental check-ups, your dentist may be the first step toward identifying a serious medical condition and referring you to a physician for further evaluation.”

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