In recommendations published by the journal Clinical Diabetes, dentists and doctors say that dentists are in an ideal position to improve the treatment of diabetes. In order to overcome factors that hold back the care of diabetes, such as a lack of primary care doctors, dentists should take a leading role in the treatment of this chronic health condition.
Shortage of Primary Care Physicians
One of the biggest problems with helping people get proper diabetes care is that there is a general shortage of primary care physicians. Primary care physicians are the front-line professionals who deal with chronic health conditions like diabetes. Experts recommend that about 40% of doctors should be primary care physicians to meet the healthcare demands of the population, but only about 30% of doctors work in primary care. It’s likely to get worse, too, because only 25% of medical school graduates go into primary care.
More People Visit the Dentist Than the Doctor
Although not as many people visit their dentist the way they should, even fewer people visit their doctors regularly. For people over the age of 65, only 38% see their doctor every year, compared to 58% who visit their dentist. This group that is at the highest risk of diabetes could benefit from having their dentist take a more active role.
The Role of Dentists
Dentists can perform many important tasks to aid diabetes care. Most importantly, dentists could perform regular screenings for diabetes. In the course of a gum disease exam, dentists were 92% accurate in identifying diabetic patients. If Dentists started administering blood glucose tests, they could easily identify virtually 100% of diabetic patients and refer them to their doctors for care.
Dentists are also ideally suited for helping patients make lifestyle changes to improve diabetes. Dentists are accustomed to making recommendations for lifestyle changes in support of oral health, and related recommendations for diabetes care could easily be incorporated by dentists. This would reinforce the message from patients’ doctors and improve compliance.
Most importantly, dentists could monitor the extent to which a patient’s diabetes is under control. Uncontrolled diabetes has very clear symptoms visible in the gums, and dentists could identify patients for whom current diabetes care is inadequate, then, again, refer them to their doctor for further instructions.
Partnerships between dentists and doctors seem increasingly logical as we come to understand the links between oral health and general health. If you are looking for a San Diego dentist whose concerns extend beyond your teeth, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment at Strober Dental.