People in the South may want to pay special attention to their dental health. Researchers recently identified a “diabetes belt” primarily in the southeastern U.S. containing a high concentration of diabetes cases. Scientists have found a connection between gum disease and diabetes, so a dense population of diabetes patients could mean additional dental issues as well.
The “diabetes belt” spreads across a large portion of the Southern U.S., including the entire state of Mississippi as well as parts of Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Ohio, Texas and Arkansas. Researchers determined this area by measuring several factors and demographics throughout the country. These included:
- Sedentary lifestyle
Four factors in particular stood out in distinguishing the South as a heavier population of diabetes. Nearly 33% of the population in this Belt has diabetes, as opposed to barely over 26% for the rest of the country. Almost 31% of Southerners were found to have a sedentary lifestyle, whereas only about 25% of people in non-Southern states were sedentary. Fewer people have a college degree within this Belt, and researchers also found that non-Hispanic African Americans comprised nearly 24% of this Southern population, while comprising less than 9% of the population elsewhere in the U.S.
Researchers said that though obesity and sedentary lifestyles tend to be the primary contributor, all these factors combined may have contributed to the higher incidence of the disease in that region.
Dental Issues with Diabetes
Diabetes can complicate the effects of periodontal disease, and periodontal disease can also make diabetes more difficult. Periodontitis (severe periodontal disease) actually increases the body’s blood sugar, which can cause diabetic complications of imbalance. Conversely, diabetes fluctuates the body’s blood sugar, causing higher concentrations of sugar in the mouth from which disease-causing bacteria could feed. Proper oral hygiene and upkeep has actually been shown to help patients control their diabetes.
Controlling your blood glucose can help prevent these diseases from occurring in your mouth, so in addition to daily brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash, close management of insulin levels is a very important factor. Visit your dentist for a checkup at least twice a year to keep your mouth clean and to check for early signs of periodontal disease.
Prevention and Awareness
Living in the “diabetes belt” doesn’t automatically mean you will have periodontal disease, and living elsewhere doesn’t guarantee immunity from the disease. Careful attention to oral health and regular dental care can help reduce the chances of complication both in the mouth and in diabetes management. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist.