Diabetes and Your Oral Health

by MikeMeehan 11/14/2017 2:11 PM

November is Diabetes Awareness Month to bring attention to the disease and the millions of people affected by it. We’d like to join this effort from the perspective of your oral health. Frequently, we emphasize the connection between oral health and overall health. And that connection can work both ways. A person with diabetes is an example of this connection. If you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk of developing gum disease. And, according to the American Diabetes Association, research suggests “serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.” What’s the connection? To be clear, diabetes doesn’t cause gum disease and gum disease doesn’t cause diabetes. But if you have one, you are likely to have the other, in comparison to others who don’t have diabetes or gum disease. To explain a bit further, if you have diabetes, your ability to fight infection is reduced. Gum disease is a type of infection in your gums and the surrounding bones supporting your teeth. Gum disease is also referred to as periodontal disease. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, has symptoms like red, swollen and bleeding gums. In the early stages, gingivitis can be reversible with daily brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. When the condition reaches the later stage, called periodontitis, your gums are seriously damaged.  Talk With Your Dentist To prevent gum disease, practice good oral health care. If you have diabetes, since you’re at higher risk of developing gum disease, paying close attention to your teeth and mouth and maintaining a good oral health care routine is extremely important. Managing your diabetes will also help. According to studies, people who manage their diabetes tend to have less gum disease than people who are not managing their disease well. Talk with your dentist to discuss a plan going forward. Enhanced Benefits Also, if you have diabetes or gum disease you may be eligible for enhanced benefits through your Delta Dental plan, like extra cleanings and exams. Confirm your eligibility before treatment by contacting us directly or talking with your dental care provider. You may have to sign up for the enhanced benefits program before receiving the extra coverage. You can learn more about the symptoms diabetes can create in your mouth by visiting the American Dental Association website. Learn more about diabetes and Diabetes Awareness Month by visiting the American Diabetes Association website.

Enhanced Benefits for Improved Oral Health

by MikeMeehan 10/31/2017 1:54 PM

At Delta Dental, we emphasize the connection between your oral health and overall health. We know that maintaining your oral health will provide benefits to your entire health. And because of this connection, if you have a specific health condition, additional oral health care can be beneficial. So we, at Delta Dental, offer enhanced benefits. Our enhanced benefits program, called Healthy Smiles, Healthy Lives®, covers extra cleanings and exams for members with certain health conditions. You may be eligible to receive this extra care for little or no increase in your dental premium. And the extra care will improve not only your oral health, but your overall health. Check your current plan to confirm your eligibility or if you’d like to enroll, visit our website, or talk with your dentist. The program benefits are based on your dental plan and your medical condition. The benefits may include additional cleanings, periodontal maintenance and fluoride treatments. Here are some examples of conditions that may be eligible for the enhanced benefits program, as listed by the Delta Dental Plans Association: Cancer-related chemotherapy or radiation treatments. While under these treatments, you may have a weakened immune system and dry mouth. This can put you at increased risk for cavities and gum infection. Diabetes. If you have diabetes, you are more susceptible to periodontal disease. Extra cleanings may help improve your periodontal health. Periodontal (gum) disease. You may prevent tooth loss that can result from periodontal disease  with more frequent visits and additional dental care. Cardiovascular diseases or stroke. If you have cardiovascular disease, you share many of the risk factors with those who have gum disease.  Kidney failure or dialysis. If you have kidney disease, additional preventive care may help you decrease dental infections, which can be harmful to your kidney functions. Pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, hormonal changes can make your mouth more vulnerable to bacteria and developing gum problems. Good preventive care and extra cleanings can help avoid those issues. Suppressed immune systems. More oral exams and cleanings may help you if you have a weakened immune system, including if you have HIV or if you have received an organ transplant. These extra cleanings can help you avoid mouth infections and improve your quality of life. Again, please be sure to confirm your eligibility before treatment by contacting us directly or asking your dentist to contact us. You may have to sign up for the enhanced benefits program before receiving the extra coverage.  

Keeping Focus with Diabetic Eye Disease

by MikeMeehan 11/17/2016 4:05 PM

Living with diabetes requires a lot of medications, devices and checkups. It can be expensive. And while a lot can be done to manage it, it can do some wonky and unpredictable things. For example, a person with diabetes might experience dropping blood sugar levels, so she keeps eating, and then her blood sugar suddenly spikes. With diabetes, your body doesn’t produce insulin (or at least enough insulin), so you have to manually regulate your insulin levels. This is harder than it sounds. Imagine, for example, if you stopped blinking involuntarily, and you had to regulate blinking. It would be incredibly difficult to get blinking down to an exact science. Calculating the right amount of insulin works the same way. As a result, blood sugar levels can sometimes get too low or too high. Neither scenario is good on your eyes. Blurring the Lines: Low Blood Sugar and the Eyes Every cell in your body needs sugar to function properly. If blood sugar gets too low, your central nervous system begins to malfunction. This is called hypoglycemia. A lot of symptoms come with hypoglycemia, but as it pertains to the eyes, your vision becomes blurred. High blood sugar, however, can cause more damage and thus be more dangerous. High Blood Sugar: How Failing Kidneys Swell the Eyes Constant high blood sugar can actually damage parts of the eyes. That’s because when blood sugar is high, the eye swells and can change shape. To understand why, we first must look to the kidneys. The kidneys play a big role in digestion. A simplified explanation of the digestion process is this: Food enters the kidney and gets separated into either protein or waste products. Protein travels through tiny blood vessels called capillaries. But for the waste products — each of the capillaries have tiny holes in them, through which the waste products are filtered. The protein is too big to fit through the holes, so they travel through the kidneys and convert into useful energy. High blood sugar can disrupt this process. It causes the kidneys to filter too much blood, which is hard on the tiny holes. The tiny holes widen, so protein seeps out as a waste product. If this goes on too long, the kidneys become worse at filtering until they fail altogether. So what does this have to do with the eyes? When the kidneys don’t filter waste products the way they’re supposed to, the body has excess fluid in it. This excess fluid can accumulate around the eyes, especially at night, when gravity pulls the fluid that direction. One symptom is puffy eyes. But diabetes doesn’t stop at puffy eyes. The excess fluid causes the eye to swell. This leads to a ton of problems. A Ton of Problems Diabetic Retinopathy The most serious condition is called diabetic retinopathy, which accounts for twelve percent of all new cases of blindness and is the leading cause of blindness for 20- to 64-year-olds. Diabetic retinopathy deals with the lens inside your eyes called the retina, which is a light sensitive lining at the back of the eye. Blood vessels supply the retina. When the eye swells, these blood vessels can leak blood or other fluids into the retina, causing it to swell. The result is blurred or cloudy vision. Unfortunately, extensive damage can often happen to the eye before you even notice any changes in your vision. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, let your optometrist know immediately. Diabetic Macular Edema If the seeping from diabetic retinopathy isn’t handled immediately, it can culminate into another problem. Over time, blood and fluid can seep into the macula, which is the part of the retina that focuses light. When this happens, the condition is called diabetic macular edema (DME). Not only does this blur vision, colors might appear washed out to you. Cataracts and Glaucoma Diabetes can also lead to cataracts and glaucoma. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. The lens helps with focus. Adults with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts than adults without, and they often develop cataracts at an earlier age, too. Glaucoma damages a bundle of nerve fibers that connect the eye to the brain (aka the eye’s optic nerve). This could be due to the swelling, as increased swelling leads to elevated pressure in the eye. An adult with diabetes has two times the risk of glaucoma as an adult without. Sharpening the Focus on Diabetic Eye Disease Going state by state, the American Diabetes Association reveals diabetes is growing at an epidemic rate in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans have been diagnosed. Luckily, diabetic eye disease is considered rare, with fewer than 200,000 cases in the U.S. per year. However, according to the National Eye Institute, it has no warning signs and no cure. And diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults. To prevent diabetic eye disease, control your blood sugar and blood pressure. Visit your optometrist if you are experiencing any of the following:   Blurred vision Double vision Pain in your eyes Black spots in your vision Flashes of light   Likewise, schedule a dilated eye exam at least once a year. The disease may not have an end in sight, but the earlier you can catch it, the better your vision for the future.


©Delta Dental of Missouri 2012