Number of people with diabetes visiting dentists down, says US study

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 03 Apr 2018
Number of people with diabetes visiting dentists down, says US study
A US study has revealed that people with diabetes were less likely to visit their dentist compared with those who had prediabetes or did not have the condition.

Having diabetes is associated with a greater risk of gum disease (periodontal disease) and research indicates that gum disease may lead to worsening blood sugar levels. Therefore, regular dental visits are an important part of both dental and diabetes care.

The researchers analysed data from 2.5 million adults aged 21 and older. Data included information about dental visits between 2004-2014 and included information from an annual survey of US adults called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Out of the sample, 248,203 people had diabetes, 30,520 had prediabetes and 2,221,534 did not have diabetes.

The proportion of annual dental check-ups decreased over a 10-year period from 66.1% to 61.4% among people with diabetes, compared to a smaller drop from 66-64.9% for those with prediabetes and 71.9-66.5% in people without diabetes.

Leading researcher on the study Professor Bei Wu, who is the director of Global Health and Aging Research at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing, said: "For people living with diabetes, regular dental check-ups - paired with proactive dental and diabetes self-care - are important for maintaining good oral health.

"Regular dental visits provide opportunities for prevention, early detection, and treatment of periodontal disease, which can potentially help with blood glucose control and preventing complications from diabetes."

Fellow researcher Dr Huabin Luo, PhD, from East Carolina University, said: "This pattern is concerning, given that timely dental care is essential for good oral health, especially in individuals with diabetes. Those who need dental care the most seem to be the least likely to have it."

The research team suggested the reasons behind the decline could be down to a lack of understanding about the effect of diabetes on dental health, but also could be financial.

The study was published in The Journal of the American Dental Association.
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