During American Diabetes Month, it's important that we remember that diabetes affects the entire body. And while we may think of the kidney disease and heart disease as being associated with diabetes, I was surprised to learn from my dentist that diabetes can pose significant risk to a person's oral health. Dr. Larry Leibowitz, whose dental practice is located in the same professional office center as our practice, sat down with me to answer some questions about diabetes and oral health.
In what ways can diabetes affect oral health?
Dr. L: "Unfortunately, diabetes can cause a number of issues with a person's oral health. For example, diabetes causes decreased saliva flow or dry mouth. This can, in turn, lead to soreness, infections and tooth decay. Diabetes can also cause gum inflammation (gingivitis and periodontitis). Thrush, which is a type of fungal infection that can cause sores on the mouth tissues and tongue, is another concern with diabetic patients. Finally, diabetics may also experience burning sensations in the mouth or tongue."
What is the most common diabetic complication in your dental practice? How can it affect the person's long term health?
Dr. L: "Most common diabetic complication that we see is gum disease with bleeding and bone loss. Unfortunately, this bone loss is permanent and can undermine the function of the teeth over the long term."
How often should diabetics see their dentist?
Dr. L: "I cannot stress enough the importance of diabetics seeing their dentist twice a year. This includes diabetics whose blood sugar may be under control. When gum disease or other oral complications are present, this frequency of dental visits should increase to 3 to 4 times a year. This gives us a chance to detect progression and perform treatments as necessary to prevent further damage."
What symptoms would signal to a diabetic it's time to see their dentist sooner than their scheduled appointment?
Dr. L: "Diabetics should see their dentist sooner than their normal schedule if they have pain ,bleeding ,or swelling in their gums or teeth. These symptoms are indicative of problems that need to be treated sooner rather than later."
What can diabetics do to help reduce their likelihood of diabetes-related oral health issues?
Dr. L: "Diabetics can minimize oral health problems by seeing their dentist regularly, using dental floss every day,and brushing at least 3 times a day. Of course diabetics need to keep their blood sugar as close to normal as possible. This means regular monitoring and good communication with their primary care physician or endocrinologist on ways to keep blood sugar in check."
A special thanks to Dr. Leibowitz for his time in sharing this valuable information. To learn more about Dr. Leibowitz's dental practice, you can visit http://drleibowitz.com or call (757) 424-3555