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The Diabetic Dental Patient

October 15th, 2010

Diabetes, a systemic condition in which the natural ability to regulate blood sugar levels is impaired, can cause far reaching effects throughout the body.  In some cases, the nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and circulatory system can be adversely affected.  In the dental office, we sometimes see diabetic patients with advanced levels of periodontal disease.  Diabetes does not cause gum disease, but research and experience have shown that  periodontitis in diabetic patients can progress more rapidly and cause more damage to the dentition in a shorter period of time than in non-diabetics.  It is therefore especially important that a regimen of  proper home care techniques (brushing and flossing) and regular periodic dental cleanings and check-ups be followed.

Periodontal disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, occurs when bacterial plaque accumulates and hardens below the gumline.  This irritates the gum tissue and leads to the formation of pockets, where the ensuing infection can worsen.  If not properly treated, this will lead to destruction of  bone support , and eventual tooth loss.  In diabetic patients, this situation can be exacerbated by the fact that the diabetes may decrease the host resistance to infection, leading to acceleration of the periodontal disease.  Furthermore, the presence of  rampant periodontal disease may interfere with proper control of the diabetes itself, leading to a worsening of the diabetic condition.  Therefore, it is very important to see your dentist on a regular basis.

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