By Caron Nelson Glickman
Last time I discussed basic information about diabetes, including the distinction between types 1 and 2 diabetes. There are two other subgroups, as well. Gestational diabetes a ects only pregnant women, and the problem usually corrects itself after delivery. Pre-diabetes occurs when a person’s blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. It’s estimated that there are 57 million Americans with pre-diabetes (many who haven’t been diagnosed by a physician), in contrast to just over 20 million with type 1 or 2 diabetes. Since 6.2 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, chances are that you know someone with this condition. As a dentist, I am acutely aware of this. I have many patients with diabetes, and, because my practice focuses on adults, probably many more who have pre-diabetes. There are several oral health problems associated with diabetes: • Tooth decay and periodontal disease • Salivary gland dysfunction (dry mouth)
- Fungal infections
- Lichen planus (in ammatory skin disease)
- Infection and delayed healing
- Taste impairment
If I suspect a patient has diabetes or pre-diabetes, I send them straight to their physician for de nitive blood testing. But what about patients like the one in my last article, who had no history of risk, and no symptoms until just before the acute condition that led to her hospitalization? Starting this fall, I will o er free blood glucose testing to any adult patient who wants it, and I will strongly recommend it for my diabetic patients prior to dental treatment. This simple test, which requires a quick nger stick for a small sample of blood, gives an instant result of the level of sugar in the blood. Even though this test isn’t diagnostic of diabetes itself, it can alert the patient to a potential problem, and then a referral to a physician can be made. If we all stay alert for signs and symptoms, for ourselves and our loved ones, and see our physicians regularly, we have a better chance to catch this condition before it can cause serious health problems.