Study finds people with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently
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.
“Other studies have shown that adults with diabetes receive oral health care at a lower rate than adults without diabetes and that individuals with diabetes see the dentist less than they see other health specialists as part of their comprehensive diabetes care. However, those studies used data collected over a decade ago,” said Dr. Wanda Wright, division director of dental public health at the ECU School of Dental Medicine.
Dr. Wright says that more recent data on dental care visits among individuals with diabetes have not been published and there were no studies assessing trends of dental care visits in population with diabetes, prediabetes, and no diabetes. So, the authors of the study thought that it was important to look at the trends in dental care visits using more recent national data.
In addition to Wright, the study’s authors include Dr. Ronny Bell and Dr. Huabin Luo of ECU’s Brody School of 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 and can lead to tooth loss.
Eating a well-balanced diet, practicing good oral care at home, and regular dental check-ups can help keep glucose in the normal range, according to the American Dental Association.
Dr. Wright thinks Interprofessional efforts are needed to increase awareness of the interrelationships between oral health and diabetes.
“Health care professionals who treat patients with diabetes, such as endocrinologists, primary care physicians, oral health professionals, and public health professionals need to make a concerted effort to promote oral healthcare in patients with prediabetes and diabetes and encourage them to seek dental care,” Wright said. “ They should also advocate for dental insurance coverage for these populations.”
Leading organizations in diabetes care have put forth treatment guidelines for people with diabetes recommending dental visits at least once every 6 months and more frequent visits are recommended for those with periodontal disease, added Wright. “Expanding dental insurance coverage and improving access to dental care are needed to improve dental visits in patients with diabetes. Faculty, staff, and students at our school’s clinics across the state are actively engaged in screening, counseling and referral of patients with chronic medical conditions like diabetes to our health professional colleagues.”