Most health experts agree that the UK is facing a huge increase in the number of people with diabetes. Since 1996 the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has increased from 1.4 million to 2.9 million. By 2025 it is estimated that five million people will have diabetes.
So, many of you will be wondering why a dentist is quoting these staggering figures to you and why I am positioned to comment on them? What you perhaps don’t realise is that a majority of gum disease sufferers were found to be at high risk of developing diabetes in a recent report.
However, like the old adage ‘which came first the chicken or the egg’, it’s not entirely clear which way around the diabetes and gum disease link works. Researchers studied a representative sample of 9,000 people who didn’t have diabetes, although 817 of them went on to develop the disease. The researchers found that individuals with elevated levels of periodontal disease were nearly twice as likely to become diabetic within 20 years, even after adjusting for age, smoking, obesity and diet.
Diabetic patients with poor blood sugar level control are likely to have gum disease more frequently and also in a much more severe manner.
The importance of good oral hygiene cannot be overemphasised for patients with diabetes as gingivitis (the early stage of gum disease) can be treated and reversed. However if left untreated, periodontitis (the advanced stage) can occur which in turn may lead to bone loss. Risks like impaired vision and limb loss are well known to diabetics, however gum disease is rapidly being referred to as the sixth major risk.
What can you do? Diabetic patients need to pay much more attention to their oral health and ensure a visit to us every six months for a full dental health check and a thorough cleaning of your teeth with one of our hygienists. You should also inform us if you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes and ask for advice on keeping your mouth healthy.