ADA discussion highlights diabetes and its effects

November 10, 2015

As November is set aside as National Diabetes Month, special attention was paid to its effects on dental patients and what dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants should know during a panel discussion at the recent American Dental Association Annual Session in Washington, D.C.

As November is set aside as National Diabetes Month, special attention was paid to its effects on dental patients and what dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants should know during a panel discussion at the recent American Dental Association Annual Session in Washington, D.C.

Numbers show 29 million Americans have diabetes, and it’s now the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. It’s estimated 28 percent of those who have diabetes don’t know they have it and one out of every 4.2 dental patients have diabetes. That’s a staggering number and also puts into focus what dentists and dental team members should be doing to educate their patients about their health, including how bacteria in the oral cavity affects every other part of the body.

Related reading: Study finds missing teeth can predict cardiovascular events

One study quoted during the presentation said subjects with Type 2 diabetes had approximately three times increased odds of having periodontitis compared with subjects without diabetes after adjusting for confounding variables including age, sex and oral hygiene measures.

and Dr. Sam Low, a noted dental key opinion leader, highlighted the discussion focused on “Diabetic Patient Care: Connecting Oral and Systemic Health” that was presented by Philips. The overriding theme was the dental patients’ lack of education regarding periodontal health and the role that it can play in overall health and well-being.

More on oral systemic health: How EHRs are changing oral systemic health

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“Most patients are completely unaware that they have periodontal disease,” Dr. Low told the audience. “It’s estimated that nearly half of all American adults suffer from periodontal disease and have no idea what is going on. It’s really a disease that can be covered up by our lips and many Americans pretend it doesn’t exist. Yet if we had an open wound on any other part of our body, we’d be in the emergency room trying to figure out what was going on.”

“Diabetic patients need to know about their cardiovascular risks,” Dr. Sen added. “They also need to understand the relationship between proper oral health and proper health throughout their body.”

Of particular note during Dr. Sen’s presentation was his talk about an area of the United States referred to as “The Stroke Belt.” This is an area throughout the Southeastern United States where stroke and diabetes happen way too frequently compared to other parts of the country.

Related reading: 10 questions on genetic testing, periodontal disease, and the role of the dental professional

Following the talk, I had the chance to chat with the two presenters about their presentations and the key takeaways. Click below to watch our exclusive interviews.

More on oral systemic health: The comprehensive assessment is critical in diagnosing periodontal disease