Dental News

Diabetics urged to improve dental hygiene practices

September 13, 2000

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People with diabetes are more likely to develop tooth decay and gum disease, yet few patients are aware of the risks, results of a recent survey suggest.

Many patients with type 1 diabetes do not take steps to prevent dental complications, which can include tooth loss, gingivitis and infections, researchers report in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

“Patients with diabetes appear to lack important knowledge about the oral health complications of their disease,” according to Dr. Paul A. Moore of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and colleagues.

“The results of this survey did not indicate improved prevention behaviors among the (those) with diabetes” compared with nondiabetics, the researchers add.

Gum disease and tooth loss can also compromise diabetics’ ability to maintain healthy diets and stable blood sugar–cornerstones of diabetes treatment, the authors note.

The investigators asked 390 adults with type 1 diabetes about their attitudes and practices regarding oral health, and compared responses with those from more than 202 people without diabetes. Nearly 45% of diabetic patients had developed a serious medical complication.

Smoking rates and oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing teeth were found to be similar among people with and without diabetes. Diabetics more frequently cited costs as a reason for avoiding regular dental exams.

And while most people with diabetes believed their dentist knew about their disorder, few understood that diabetes affects oral health or that they should get regular dental care.

“Dentists have an opportunity and the responsibility to promote good oral health behaviors such as regular dental examinations, proper oral hygiene and smoking cessation that may significantly affect the oral health of their diabetic patients,” Moore and colleagues conclude.

People with type 1 or juvenile diabetes are usually diagnosed before the age of 21. These patients do not produce enough insulin, the hormone that regulates glucose (sugar) metabolism.