Can patients with diabetes be identified in the dental chair?

Adults with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems, including tooth decay; periodontal (gum) disease; salivary gland dysfunction; fungal infections; lichen planus and lichenoid reactions (inflammatory skin disease); infection and delayed healing; and taste impairment.

Yet, a recent study by British researchers shows that few diabetics in Warwickshire, England, are aware of the increased risks to their oral health.

A total of 229 diabetic adults completed questionnaires to assess their oral health awareness, oral hygiene and toward their dentist's involvement in diabetes screenings. Investigators found that most (79.8 percent) visited a dentist once or twice a year.

But reports of oral care were more varied. Two-thirds of respondents (67.2 percent) reported brushing at least twice a day but only 15.3 percent flossed each day. Most of the patients surveyed (69.1 percent) reported not receiving any oral health advice related to their diabetes. More than half (53.5 percent) were in favor of dentists offering diabetes screenings.

Researchers say that since the inflammation caused by gum disease can make diabetes more difficult to control or can increase risks of oral cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as tooth loss and other oral health problems, patients with diabetes could benefit from more oral health care advice and diabetes screenings.

For more information from the ADA on diabetes and oral health, visit (

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