Helen Minnery on the diabetic dental dilemma

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BSDHT President Helen Minnery warns: “Defend against dental decay caused by diabetes”

Diabetes has fast become one of the most prevalent long-term conditions in the UK. Since 1996 the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen from 1.4 million to an astonishing 3.5 million, and this number doesn’t even include the half a million people who are estimated to be living with the condition undiagnosed [1]. This means that as many as 1 in 16 people throughout Great Britain now has diabetes, and this number is only going to increase should action against the disease not be taken.

Due to their high blood glucose levels diabetics are at risk of systemic complications that can affect their heart, kidneys, eyes and feet, amongst others. Although there are two types of diabetes, both conditions present with similar problems because both involve either zero (Type 1) or insufficient (Type 2) insulin production by the pancreas to correctly process blood glucose – which can lead to fatal consequences if the condition isn’t managed properly.

Bad news for oral health

As well as causing difficulties related to general health, diabetes has been found to exacerbate many oral health conditions. Periodontitis is a common inflammatory infection that affects around 10-15% of adults globally, and it has been found that diabetics are three times more likely to suffer from the disease [2].

Diabetes have a much higher glucose level in their saliva. The presence of this glucose encourages bacteria to stick to the teeth, which leads to the formation of more plaque [3]. This can develop into periodontal diseases that may cause irreversible gum recession and tooth loss.

It has also been found that diabetics affected by severe periodontitis are more susceptible to other complications. Research shows that those with both conditions have a much higher chance of kidney disease and heart-related problems, both of which can prove fatal [3].

Raise awareness

In light of these health concerns it is more important than ever for dental professionals to help diabetic patients practise good oral hygiene. Diabetes Week 2018 takes place from 11-17th June this year, and is the perfect opportunity for everyone to get involved and raise awareness about the condition and the effects it can have on oral health.

By posting on social media using the hashtags #diabetesweek and #talkaboutdiabetes you can share the best cleaning tips and encourage diabetic patients to visit their dental hygienists and dental therapists more often, ensuring their teeth get the thorough cleaning they need to avoid complications further down the line. The theme of the event this year is breaking down the barriers that people living with the condition may have and encouraging conversation. So, why not host a fundraiser or encourage diabetic individuals to seek the dental care they need?

Diabetes UK has a number of downloadable resources available for people looking to get involved, all of which can be found here: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/get_involved/diabetes-week 

Diabetes is a very real threat to a high proportion of the population. By taking a stand against the condition, encouraging diabetics to manage their oral health properly and partake in active conversation, dental professionals can help those affected with the condition live longer, healthier lives.

For more information about the BSDHT, visit www.bsdht.uk, call 01788 575050 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


1] Diabetes.co.uk. Diabetes prevalence. Link: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-prevalence.html  [Last accessed May 18].

2] Preshaw, P., Alba, A., Herrera, D., Jepsen, S., Konstantinidis, A., Makrilakis, K., Taylor, R. Periodontitis and Diabetes: A Two-Way Relationship. Diabetologia. 2012; 55(1): 21–31.

3] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes, Gum Disease and Other Dental Problems. Link: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/gum-disease-dental-problems [Last accessed May 18].