Diabetes Detection by Your Dentist

Of the 30 million Americans living with diabetes today, more than 8 million don’t even know they have it. The rates are even higher for seniors: approximately 25% are dealing with the effects of diabetes (according to the American Diabetes Association ).

With that in mind, it’s good to know that regular trips to the dentist may be the best way to learn if you have diabetes. Dentists are often the first to see signs of a disease because many people don’t go to the doctor when they believe they’re healthy. The dentist’s role in detecting diabetes is an example of how good oral health can improve your overall health.

How Dentists Detect Diabetes

Oral Yeast Infections

One sign of pre-diabetes is frequent yeast infections in the mouth. In diabetics, yeast infections occur when blood glucose levels rise, creating an ideal environment for yeast cells to grow and divide. These kinds of infections are rare in healthy people, so dentists who encounter one look for a cause.

Yeast infections can develop as a side effect of antibiotics. But if you’re not taking antibiotics, your dentist will ask more questions to identify what may be additional symptoms of diabetes. These include unexplained weight loss, frequent urination and increased thirst. If you’re experiencing these symptoms along with an oral yeast infection, you might have undiagnosed diabetes.

Periodontal Disease

An additional warning sign is periodontal or gum disease, a type of bacterial infection that destroys gum and bone tissue. The infection attacks the support structure of the teeth, and can eventually cause tooth loss. This is different from tooth decay, which causes holes to form in your teeth.

Diabetics with periodontal disease find it extremely hard to control their blood glucose levels because higher levels of sugar in the bloodstream can cause microbial organisms to grow in a way that creates an imbalance of bacteria in the mouth. When that happens, you get periodontal disease.

Don’t Neglect Dentist Visits

Diabetics that neglect to visit their dentists put their health and finances at risk. Several studies have shown that medical costs decrease when you visit your dentist on a regular basis.

These visits may also help to ensure you and your family have good overall health. Dentists might not be able to stop diseases like diabetes from occurring, but they can recognize symptoms of the disease early so you can get treatment.

About the Author

Jed Jacobson, DDS, MS, MPH
Chief Science Officer of Renaissance Life & Health Insurance Company of America and the Director of the Renaissance Dental Research and Data Institute

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

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