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The Silent Signs of Gum Disease


Delta Dental advises people with diabetes to pay attention for warning signs of gum disease.

   

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OAK BROOK, Ill. (November 13, 2013) - Diabetes is a pervasive problem in America, a cultural epidemic with wide-ranging and potentially severe consequences. According to the 2011 National Diabetes Factsheet, 25.8 million people or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes at an estimated annual total cost of about $245 billion.1

November is National Diabetes Month and Delta Dental wants to remind people of the well-documented connection between diabetes and oral health.2 People with diabetes tend to develop periodontal (gum) disease earlier in life, and more severely. Though it is often painless, Delta Dental cautions people suffering from diabetes to be mindful of its warning signs. These can include bad breath, bleeding gums after brushing or flossing, red, swollen or tender gums, or changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite. Unfortunately, many people ignore those periodontal red flags until it's too late.3

"Individuals often ignore the warning signs of periodontal disease because there is usually no pain involved," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association's vice president for dental science and policy. "So they will brush a little better to get rid of the bleeding or use mouthwash to hide their bad breath. The best idea is to schedule regular visits to your dentist to make sure that you are not developing periodontal disease."

Maintaining regular dental visits is particularly critical for patients suffering from diabetes. Oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease are often reversible if they are diagnosed and treated early. Dentists can also check for other common mouth conditions that afflict people with diabetes such as dry mouth, ulcers and infections. Periodontal disease and other mouth conditions may also be a sign that other medical conditions exist elsewhere in the body. Depending on their findings, the dentist might advise patients to seek a medical consultation.

Even before visiting the dentist, patients can use an online risk assessment tool (such as Delta Dental's myDentalScore) to answer a series of questions that can gauge their risk levels for gum disease, oral cancer and other serious oral health problems. Additional lifestyle best practices for people with diabetes include controlling blood sugar, brushing and flossing daily, and quitting smoking.

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1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf.

2National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Diabetes and Oral Health. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/Diabetes/default.htm

3American Diabetes Association. 2013 Diabetes Facts. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/