Diabetes & Dental Health

November is American Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association 12.8% of the adult population in Oregon have diabetes, which is around 435,000 people. Of these people, nearly 25% are unaware they have diabetes, greatly increasing their health risks. In addition, just over one in three Oregonians (36%) have prediabetes, meaning their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is an expensive disease, both in dollar costs and in quality of life.

Signs of diabetes frequently show up in our mouths as a dry mouth, infections and/or poor healing of wounds. Diabetics are at greater risk of gum (periodontal) disease, a chronic infection of the bone and tissues that support our teeth. Diabetics are also more susceptible to fungal infections such as thrush and a dry mouth, which can increase the risk of tooth decay. Research indicates that the relationship between diabetes and gum disease is a two-way street, with untreated gum infection making blood sugar more difficult to control, and high blood sugar making gum disease more difficult to manage.

Other signs and symptoms of diabetes include increased hunger, thirst and urination, increased fatigue, numbness or tingling of the hands or feet and blurry vision. Genetics, age, and ethnicity all affect our risk levels. About 25% of seniors over age 65 are diabetic.

Diabetes affects many systems in our body and can cause problems with skin, eyes and our nervous system. It increases our risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Although not all cases of diabetes can be prevented, the risk can be reduced by managing weight, quitting smoking and getting regular exercise. Choose a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, lean mets and lowfat dairy products. If you’re curious about your risk level, you can take the American Diabetes Asociation risk test for a closer look and talk with your health care provider about testing.

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