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Educating Patients About Link Between Diabetes and Oral Health

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As a front line health professional, it is critical for dental hygienists to learn the facts, toll, and cost of overall health before we extend valuable risk assessments, patient education materials, and treatment. This may just be our "in" with working alongside a diabetic's team of experts.

Here are some facts to consider when working with your patients:

  • Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
  • Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Recent estimates project that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless we take steps to stop diabetes.

The toll and cost of diabetes on overall health are:

  • 2 out of 3 people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. 
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults.
  • About 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction, and other nerve problems.
  • The cost of caring for someone with diabetes is $1 out of every $5 in total healthcare costs.
  • Treating gum disease can lower the pharmacy cost for some by at least $1500.

What tools can you use to educate and monitor your patients who have this chronic disease? It begins with identifying the patient's risk for diabetes via Diabetes Risk Assessment, which combines an immediate blood glucose reading with a self-collected lab test approved by the FDA. This provides us with the Hb1Ac score to monitor and manage an optimal state of oral health for our patients. It requires an 8 hour fasting prior to the test as it would when taken by a physician or endocrinologist. The entire dental team must have clear communication regarding benefit of this risk assessment chairside for the accuracy of test results.

Educational packets or checklists may guide you and your patients for creating awareness with diabetes and oral health. Check out Henry Schein's contribution to this topic called "Total Health Beyond the Mouth." Great, quick information invites a conversation between hygienists and their patients.

Total Health Beyond the Mouth

Finally, know what products are safe and effective for your diabetic patients? specific oral health condition. Here's one to consider: Kolorz Hygiene Products.

November is National Diabetes Month. I encourage you to take a look at your current plan for educating and treating your current patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Next, ask yourself: What is our plan to educate those who are alarmingly undiagnosed? Be consistent in your approach with education materials and risk assessments.

Now take what you've learned and make a difference with it!

Anastasia challenges dental professionals to continually raise the standard of patient care. She is an author in several dental industry publications and is published as an oral health source for numerous online consumer-based sites. Her weekly video blog on YouTube; Anastasia's Hump Day Happenings answers questions from the general public on oral health topics. Anastasia is a spokesperson, independent consultant, working with several companies to develop website content, social media presence, continuing education programs and in-office training for dental hygiene departments on product integration with team communication.

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