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Chances are, you know someone with diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association claims more than 37 million people have diabetes in the United States, and one in five are unaware of their condition. The number of people diagnosed is higher than it has ever been. And it’s not just impacting older adults. People are developing diabetes at younger ages and at higher rates. But the more you know about diabetes, the more you can do about preventing it, delaying it, or lessening its harmful effects.
In honor of National Diabetes Month and National Family Caregivers Month, we’d like to offer insights on the connection between diabetes and dental and vision care, as well as tips for helping a friend or loved one manage diabetes.
Diabetes and Dental Health
Diabetes affects your body’s ability to process sugar – so the link between diabetes and oral health problems is high blood sugar. If blood sugar is poorly controlled, the more likely you are to develop the following issues:
Teeth: High sugar or glucose levels in the blood can promote the growth of harmful bacteria, causing persistent bad breath and a buildup of a soft, sticky film called plaque. Harmful bacteria can cause tooth decay and cavities. If plaque is not removed and accumulates on teeth, it can form tartar buildup over time which leads to gum disease.
Gums: Periodontitis (gum) disease is when your gums become red, swollen, tender and often bleed easily. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth, causing pockets or gaps. Bacteria grow in these gaps and below the gum line, causing an infection that can break down the bone and tissue that hold teeth in place and affect your jaw. Tooth loss can also occur, as your jaw can change shape from the loss of bone or teeth, causing problems with chewing.
Mouth Tissues: The soft tissues in your mouth may be affected by diabetes, including your tongue, roof and bottom of your mouth, and the inside of your cheeks. People with diabetes are more susceptible to a dry mouth from a lack of saliva. Symptoms of dry mouth include pain or problems with cracked lips, a rough tongue, and difficulty chewing, eating, swallowing, or talking. Mouth infections can show up as white sores or red patches on the tissues of your mouth.
Diabetes and Vision Health
Diabetes affects go beyond the mouth; it can also impact vision health. There are several conditions that diabetics and their doctors should watch for, including: blurry vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and damage to the retina (retinopathy), with some conditions leading to blindness.
Caring for a Friend or Loved One with Diabetes
If you or a loved one has diabetes or has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, it’s important to stay on top of visiting both your ophthalmologist and dentist more often. In fact, just letting your doctor know you are experiencing diabetic-like symptoms could lead to an early diabetes diagnosis and help protect your short and long-term eye and dental health and lead to better overall health.
Here are tips to helping support those you care for with diabetes:
With proper education, tools, and an excellent support team, diabetes complications with oral health can be minimized and controlled. Keep this information in mind to ensure your family and friends have healthy smiles!
Need a dentist near home, work or your kids' school? With one of the largest networks in the country, we make it easy to find a dentist who fits your location and your schedule.
*All TruAssure dental plans, other than Basic and Preferred dental plans, are offered in association with the DenteMax Plus dental network arrangement, which includes participating dentists from the United Concordia, DenteMax and Connection dental networks in all states but North Carolina, where the DenteMax Plus network arrangement includes DenteMax and Connection dental networks. TruAssure Basic and Preferred dental plans are offered in association with the DenteMax dental network.
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