ADA: Dentists can help detect diabetes

A dentist can be a valuable member of a patient's diabetes healthcare team to help check for signs of gum disease and provide tips to patients on how to maintain good oral health, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Of the 26 million people who have diabetes, an estimated 7 million don't know that they have the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. With those figures in mind, the ADA recommends that regular health checkups may help to identify potential signs of diabetes.

Oral health and overall health are related, so poor oral health might also signal other serious health conditions, according to the organization. Severely inflamed gums, coupled with a patient's medical history, can be cause for concern.

A recent study in Journal of the American Dental Association found that 1 in 5 cases of total tooth loss in the U.S. can be linked to diabetes (JADA, May 2013, Vol. 144:5, pp. 478-485). Patients with diabetes have a lower resistance to infection, according to the ADA. That, along with a longer healing process, makes them more susceptible to developing gum disease and developing a more severe form of the disease.

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