Link between oral health and diabetes

Failing to brush teeth twice a day and floss once a day can not only contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes, it can also make an existing diabetes condition worse, says the Australian Dental Association (ADA). 

In fact, according to the ADA, poor oral health has serious knock-on effects on the rest of the body, including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, low birthweight and preterm babies, and diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes and oral health have a bidirectional or two-way relationship,” says ADA Vice President Dr Scott Davis.

“So people with diabetes have high blood sugar levels which can lead to gum disease, which when left untreated is now known to be one of the top complications of type 2.

“Gum disease, in turn, makes it difficult to control blood sugar levels and, when left untreated, results in periodontitis which addition to receding gums, means the bones supporting the teeth break down, and teeth can fall out, as well as contributing to these other serious long-term health issues.

“While the relationship between oral health and diabetes can be different for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes, it’s important for people with diabetes to maintain good control of both their oral health and their diabetes management.

“The upshot of all this is that people with diabetes should see their dentist for regular checkups and cleaning, especially those recently diagnosed or who have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels.”

Oral manifestations of type 2 diabetes, such as a higher risk of dental decay, dry mouth from reduced saliva production, oral thrush and changes to sense of taste, should be monitored as important indicators for the management of this disease.

The ADA says that a major contributory factor to the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and tooth decay is our love of sugary drinks. A single can of sugar-sweetened soft drink contains, on average, 10 teaspoons or 40g of added sugars – so one can is already way over the 24g a day recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The ADA is urging the Federal Government to introduce a health levy on sugary drinks by increasing the price by 20% and fund research into the link between oral and systemic diseases like diabetes. It also wants to see health campaigns with an oral health component to ensure they reach people with Diabetes.

The dental body also wants to see an overhaul of the Health Star Rating System to enable consumers to make more informed choices when shopping, with clearer labelling as mandatory for food and drink manufacturers.

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