According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes affects nearly 24 million people in the United States. In observance of National Diabetes Month, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) encourages those with diabetes to pay extra attention to their oral health. Studies have shown that those with diabetes are more susceptible to the development of oral infections and periodontal (gum) disease than those who do not have diabetes. In addition, oral infections tend to be more severe in people with diabetes than in those who do not have the condition.
"We urge individuals with diabetes to take care of their mouths and have dental infections treated immediately," says AGD spokesperson E. Mac Edington, DDS, MAGD, ABGD. "People who receive good dental care and have good insulin control typically have a better chance at avoiding gum disease."
Because diabetes reduces the body's resistance to infection, the gums are at risk for gingivitis, an inflammation usually caused by the presence of bacteria in plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that accumulates on teeth both above and below the gum line.
"Without regular dental checkups, gum disease may result if gingivitis is left untreated. Gingivitis also can cause inflammation and destruction of tissues surrounding and supporting teeth," says Dr. Edington. To prevent problems with bacterial infections in the mouth, a dentist may prescribe antibiotics, medicated mouthrinses, and more frequent cleanings to a patient with diabetes.