The Ongoing Conversation for Patients with Diabetes

Nov 01, 2021

AUTHOR: Mandy Dennis, RDH

Do you believe there are topics we constantly come back to? Do you feel that their importance sometimes get drowned out as you feel we talk about them so much? Do you skip over courses and articles that include them? Sometimes we may look at those topics as “the same.” I also believe our patients may feel the same way.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. The impact of diabetes is staggering. More than 34 million people in the US live with diabetes, and over 7 million of these are not aware that they have this disease. A further 88 million adults have pre-diabetes. So it's pretty clear that you will see patients who have diabetes and others with prediabetes. We need to address their specific oral health risks and needs.

Why is it important?

As we know from the research, periodontitis can adversely affect glycemic control in diabetes. We need to make sure our patients understand that periodontal disease can aggravate insulin resistance and thereby affect glycemic control. The relationship is bidirectional so we also need to make sure that conversely patients know that diabetes mellitus can increase risk for periodontal disease and its severity. In fact, in a recent review it was found that diabetes increased the risk of onset or progression of periodontitis by 86%.

How are we educating our patients with diabetes?

National Diabetes Awareness Month is a great opportunity to talk with our patients who have diabetes about the importance of continued care and keeping up with their oral health. The American Association of Diabetes uses this “to get educated, find resources and make sure all those around us are aware of their risk, too.” It allows individuals who have diabetes to share their stories and give them a voice for those who are at risk.

Knowing the correlation between periodontal disease and diabetes is something we are familiar with. Translating that information to our patients is very important so that they can ensure they are best able to balance both medical and oral health concerns. We need to be careful not to get so clinical that we may drown out the message. Reiterating the need for care, and why, should be clear and concise and give specific reasons.

Recommendations and Resources

In addition to educating our patients and seeing them more frequently to help them maintain a stable periodontium, we should be recommending products that help to promote good oral health. Patients with diabetes can benefit greatly from antimicrobial toothpastes and rinses. products such as Colgate Total toothpaste and Coldat, Pro-Shield mouthrinse and maximize aids to help remove inter-dental plaque. Colgate Total SF toothpaste reduces the amount of bacteria on 100% of surfaces within the oral cavity for Whole Mouth Health. The stannous fluoride also provides protection against dental caries, gingivitis and dentin sensitivity. In addition to brushing with Colgate Total, Colgate 12HR Pro-Shield mouth rinse contains 0.075% cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC). We can let our patients know that this rinse helps them by providing 12 hour protection against plaque and gingivitis.

We can also point patients towards resources for learning more about diabetes and periodontal disease. One such resource is information available on the Mouth Healthy webpage from the American Dental Association.


  • Use November for National Diabetes Awareness Month to promote healthier living and oral health recommendations for patients with diabetes and those at risk for diabetes.
  • Remind our patients with diabetes why it’s so important to have healthy periodontium.
  • Help patients understand that oral health contributes to their physical health and vice versa.
  • Know the best resources for patients, give patients these resources and make sure they know why they are important!

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