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Diabetics more likely to suffer tooth loss

Atlanta, GA - A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says diabetics are more likely to lose teeth than non-diabetics.

Using data from nine waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1971 through 2012, researchers at Duke University found that while tooth loss among the general population decreased during the 40-year period, it remained more common among those suffering from diabetes. In fact, the data indicates that diabetics lose twice as many teeth.

University of Maryland School of Dentistry professor and dentist Dr. Gary Hack says that this may be because there's a gum disease link that can contribute to diabetics' tooth loss.

"Diabetics have two to three times the incidence of gum disease," Hack told WTOP.

In order to address the link between diabetes and gum disease, Hack has launched a program at the dental school teaching dentists-in-training to recognize signs of gum disease and to deal with the unique challenges of diabetic patients. It shows dental students how and when to use a blood sugar meter during a long procedure to check for dangerously fluctuating blood sugar levels, and stresses the importance of checking blood pressure as diabetics can also have hypertension.

Hack also notes that it's important for dentists to be able to look at a patient's mouth, detect the early warning signs of diabetes, and refer him or her to a physician.

"There are a number of studies coming out that show in a year, many patients may see their dentist and not their physician — so dentists are really going to play a key role in this," Hack said.

Health officials have noted that proper home care of teeth and gums in addition to regular, semi-annual dental checkups can help patients prevent tooth loss. Authorities also noted that the healthy management of diabetes also plays a key role in a patient's overall health and dental care, as well.

Considering the fact that an AACD survey found virtually all adults (99.7%) believe a healthy smile to be a socially important asset, diabetics would be wise to heed the study's warning, and take whatever advice dentists offer.

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