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How Dental Hygienists Can Help Spot Early Stage Diabetes



It is well known that your oral health is tied to a lot of aspects of your overall health and wellbeing. From heart disease to other serious illnesses like cancer, your oral health is a great window into many facets of your bodily wellbeing. This is also true for diabetes, one of the leading diseases within the United States that has a massive impact on our population and causes upwards of 11% of all deaths within the US as a whole. Let’s see how dental hygienists can help spot the early stage signs of diabetes.


How Dental Professionals Can Help

As of the beginning of 2018, dental professionals are trained to look for symptoms of diabetes in patients during the examination process. This was done so that dentists have the ability to refer patients to doctors if they suspect there is a potential sign of diabetic or prediabetic symptoms within the oral cavity.


Since the symptoms of diabetes show up first in the mouth in many cases, this sort of early intervention can be life-changing for many patients and offer them the ability to reverse the disease before it becomes serious if it was triggered by lifestyle causes and not a genetic predisposition alone.


What Symptoms Do Dental Professionals Look For in Diabetes Screening?

Generally, there are four big themes to keep an eye out for when examining a patient:


Poor Oral Tissue Healing Capabilities

In people with diabetes, there are often issues with blood flow. These issues can cause delayed healing across the entire body, including within the mouth. If a dental hygienist or dental assistant notices that a wound or oral surgery site is not healing properly, it may be a sign that there is a concern of diabetes.

Dry Mouth

While common in a lot of people, dry mouth combined with other factors can be attributed to diabetes. Diabetes often decreases the production of saliva, reducing moisture in the mouth. While uncomfortable, it is also dangerous since it can lead to ulcers and sores if untreated.


Gingivitis

Another name for gum disease or gum inflammation, gingivitis is sometimes present in diabetic patients because diabetes causes the blood vessels to thicken and decreases the blood flow to the gums. This prevents nutrient absorption which, in turn, disables the body’s ability to fight bacterial infections. These infections then cause gum disease and inflammation to form.


Fungal Infection Presence

Fungal infections in healthy individuals is not an unheard-of occurrence but it is not common. Due to this, fungal infections in the mouth are considered an indicator of diabetes or prediabetic symptoms in patients. Fungus, like yeast, typically feed off of sugar. When the glucose in the blood is high, they have a proverbial buffet to munch on, allowing them to easily overgrow.


Training Your Employees

Provide your employees with training so they look for these telltale signs of diabetes in every patient. By doing this, you are guaranteeing that your patients receive the best possible care.



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