Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on June 15, 2012

Sources

Beverly Rodgers, DDS, Family and Children's Dentistry, Atlanta, GA. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention American Dental Association National Institutes of Health

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Video Transcript

: Marisha: Have you been keeping up with your tooth-brushing and flossing? Vernon: EVERY DAY!

Narrator: Vernon Maddox has diabetes and knows it's a condition he has to take seriously…

Vernon Maddox, Jr.: It runs in my family—both sides

Marisha Hollins-Singleton: What we're going to do first is we're going to check the measurements around your gums to see how healthy they are…

Narrator: Routine dental checkups have become a regular part of Vernon's general healthcare—and for good reason: People who have diabetes and who neglect their oral health are 2-3 times as likely to develop inflamed gums, tooth decay and chronic bad breath--all signs of periodontal disease

Gina Thornton-Evans, DDS: If left untreated it progresses much more rapidly and they experience much more severe cases of periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss. And there's some studies to indicate it has a tremendous impact on the glycemic control.

Narrator: Glycemic—or blood sugar control --is critical. And loose or missing teeth can make it difficult for a person to have a well-balanced diet—also an essential part of any routine health maintenance plan.. Government figures estimate that nearly 24 million American adults have diabetes—many don't even know it. Increasingly, dental practices like this one have had to learn about risks this chronic disease poses for some of their patients.

Beverly Rodgers, DDS: A lot of times the dentist is the first person to see these symptoms.

Narrator: And dentists have had to become more acquainted with other common oral complaints associated with diabetes, like burning mouth syndrome and what's commonly referred to as dry mouth. There are treatments for these conditions. Staying properly hydrated or chewing sugarless gum can sometimes bring relief.

: Marisha: Have you ever experienced any sensitivity like that? Vernon: Oh yes I have.

Narrator: Because a tube of prevention is worth a pound of cure, people with diabetes are advised to: floss daily, brush teeth, gums and tongue at least twice a day, and see a dentist every six months.

Gina Thornton-Evans, DDS: If the patients become more aware of what they can do they feel empowered and it will help them to delay or even prevent certain complications of diabetes

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.