According to a recent publication of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with diabetes are twice as likely to lose their teeth as those without diabetes. This makes it crucial for people with diabetes to take extra care of their teeth and gums, with more regular visits for hygiene and checkups. Unfortunately, most people with diabetes are undiagnosed, making it harder for people to know how much they need to care for their teeth.
Over 40 Years of Tooth Loss
The new results are based on the results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which periodically assesses the health of Americans through a questionnaire answered by tens of thousands of individuals across the country. The survey was issued in 1971, 1988, 1999, and then every two years from 2001 through 2011.
Compiling the thousands of records revealed that, overall, tooth loss has dropped off significantly with time. Overall, the number of teeth lost by Americans dropped from an average of about 14 in 1971 to about five in 2011. By birth cohort, the trend is even more dramatic. Those born in 1897 to 1904 lost an average of about 20 teeth, while those born a century later had lost just one or two. Americans with diabetes were about twice as likely to experience tooth loss as nondiabetics, a trend that worsened with age.
Even more serious than diabetes was the disparity between African-Americans and other races. African-Americans had about four times the rate of tooth loss as other ethnicities. This was a trend that also increased with age.
People with diabetes have to be careful about maintaining their oral health. Not only does diabetes increase the risk of gum disease, which leads to tooth loss, gum disease can contribute to diabetes risk, making it harder to control blood sugars. This can lead to a positive feedback loop in which diabetes leads to gum disease, which makes it harder to control blood sugar.
The hardest part of trying to deal with diabetes is that, although nearly 1 in 10 Americans has the condition, nearly 75% don’t know they have it. People with undiagnosed diabetes don’t know to control their blood sugar, and don’t know they should be visiting their dentist more often.
Fortunately, even after tooth loss occurs, we have a solution. As long as blood sugars are controlled, diabetics are good candidates for dental implants, which can help make their smile whole again.