Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Diabetes and Oral Health
What’s Their Relationship?

by Ira B. Lamster, DDS, MMSc

Other, less common oral complications of diabetes have been reported. One example is diabetic sialosis, also called benign parotid hypertrophy. The parotid glands are the largest of the salivary glands, which produce saliva. They are located toward the outside of the face, just below the ears, extending down toward the angle of the lower jaw. In diabetic sialosis, the glands become enlarged, and swelling appears on the outsides of the cheeks. This condition, which results from an increase in the size of the cells in the gland, is benign. Its most significant consequence is the altered appearance of affected individuals.

Final thoughts
Oral health care should be considered part of the essential care of people with diabetes. This should begin with a thorough oral examination when a person is first diagnosed with diabetes, regardless of age. Regular dental examinations to look for changes in oral health are recommended for everyone, but they are particularly important for people with diabetes.

Studies have shown that people with diabetes do not utilize dental services as often as people without diabetes. The reasons for this situation are complex, but it may be due to the enormous amount of time people with diabetes spend addressing their health-care needs — leaving little time for health concerns that have not been emphasized by their health-care team. However, neglect of oral health can have a tremendous negative impact on people with diabetes, affecting both health outcomes and quality of life. Once oral health is established, however, routine and relatively simple preventive measures can be very effective in maintaining a healthy mouth for a lifetime.

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