People with Diabetes Visit the Dentist Less Frequently

Approximately 9.3% of the U.S. population has diabetes—that’s more than 29 million people, and approximately 1.7 million new people are diagnosed each year.1 In fact, 1 in 5 cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes, and diabetics experience almost 3 times more periodontal pathology than their non-diabetic counterparts1,2. Diabetes can cause many dental-related issues such as: dry mouth, cavities, gingivitis, delayed wound healing, or oral infections. Helping to educate your diabetic and pre-diabetic patients on the importance of continuing care will help both your business and keep your patients healthier.

A new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Dental Association shows that adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes. The study noted that people may not be aware of the impact of diabetes on their oral health and vice versa. Promoting regular dental care for this type of patient can have far-reaching effects. “Regular dental visits provide opportunities for prevention, early detection, and treatment of periodontal disease, which can potentially help with blood glucose control and preventing complications from diabetes,” said Bei Wu, PhD, Dean’s Professor in Global Health and director of Global Health & Aging Research at NYU Meyers and the study’s senior author.

While the study did not measure whether individuals had dental insurance, the researchers found substantial financial barriers to dental services for people with diabetes based on comparing dental visits and income levels. The researchers assert that reducing these barriers and improving access to dental providers is needed, especially among people with diabetes and prediabetes. “Healthcare providers and public health professionals should promote oral health in diabetes management and encourage people with diabetes to visit a dentist at least annually. Increasing access to dental services is vital to achieving this goal,” said Wu, who is also co-director of the NYU Aging Incubator.

Educating patients with diabetes on the importance of dental care can be beneficial to both the person and the dental practice. This can facilitate patients’ self-management and knowledge and also facilitate appropriate referrals to specialty dentists, if needed. Treatment coordinators can be very helpful in these cases to discuss the patients’ insurance-provided benefits that they may not even know they have, so those can be appropriately utilized.

Dental professionals and their teams can help patients to lead healthier lives both dentally and medically by increasing awareness and educating patients on the need for regular dental care.

  1. Martin L. Diabetes and your smile. Mouth Healthy™ by the American Dental Association®. Accessed April 20, 2018.
  2. American Association of Diabetes Educators. AADE Thought Leader Summit: Diabetes and Oral Health. 2016. April 20, 2018.

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