Study finds people with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently

Dr. Huabin Luo

A study led by researchers at East Carolina University and New York University showed that adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, even though they are at increased risk for periodontal disease.

The study, published by The Journal of the American Dental Association, used data from 2004 to 2014 that showed an overall decline in dental visits among adults with and without diabetes. People with diabetes were consistently the least likely to obtain oral health care.

“The pattern is concerning, given that dental care is essential for good oral health,” said Dr. Huabin Luo of ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. “Those who need dental care the most seem to be the least likely to have it.”

In addition to Luo, the study’s authors include Brody’s Dr. Ronny Bell, Dr. Wanda Wright of the ECU School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Qiang Wu of the ECU Department of Biostatistics, and Dr. Bei Wu of the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Research has shown a two-way relationship between diabetes and oral health. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue and bone, which has an adverse effect on blood glucose control.

“For people living with diabetes, regular dental checkups – supplemented with proactive dental and diabetes self-care – are important for maintaining good oral health,” Luo said. “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 of diabetes.”

ECU’s School of Dental Medicine and its eight Community Service Learning Centers are actively engaged in the screening, counseling and referral of patients with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, said Dr. David Paquette of the School of Dental Medicine. “With our clinical and educational model, we try to communicate that oral health is part of overall health and well-being of patients. Collectively, we aim to partner with other health professionals in tackling these important chronic diseases affecting our population.”

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