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Diabetes NZ Urges Vigilance in Oral Health

Embargoed until Tuesday 21st November 2006

Diabetes NZ Urges Vigilance in Oral Health

Diabetes New Zealand is this week highlighting the significance of oral health in reducing the risk of diabetes complications, as part of Diabetes Awareness Week 21-27 November.

Severe periodontal or gum disease, resulting in bone destruction and loss of teeth, affects 30% of people with diabetes. There are 125,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in New Zealand and a further 115,000 who have Type 2 diabetes but who do not know it. Diabetes New Zealand is calling for action to improve oral health care for all New Zealanders, building on the International Diabetes Federation theme Diabetes Care for Everyone.

“We don’t tend to associate dental health with other aspects of our health, but recent scientific evidence is indicating just how important it is. Infections anywhere in the body are going to impact on overall health and can therefore aggravate a diabetic condition,” says Murray Dear, President of Diabetes New Zealand.

Most people in a Swedish study in 2002 amongst people with Type 2 diabetes did not believe there was any relationship between oral health and diabetes. Nor had they ever received information on the need to keep gums, mouth and teeth healthy.

“Oral health in this country has been off the radar for many people, but actually New Zealand has one of the poorest rates of oral health in the world, and people suffering from diabetes are more susceptible to the destructive form of gum disease called periodontitis. Inequalities in oral health care are leading to increased financial, social and personal costs for people with diabetes,” says Mr Dear.

Recent research in the US has shown that the risk of death from heart disease among those with Type 2 diabetes and severe periodontal disease is more than three times that of their counterparts with good oral health.

“It’s one of those risks that can be easily avoided if people ensure the regular routine of cleaning their teeth well twice daily and flossing their teeth.I don't know anyone - dentist or patient - who practices ideal home cleaning, so professional tooth cleaning on a regular basis should also be included. But it requires a commitment to that routine year in year out,” says John Boyens, a periodontist based in Dunedin who is an enthusiastic supporter of the Diabetes New Zealand campaign.

“Periodontal disease is affected by blood glucose levels. There is evidence that good blood glucose control leads to less periodontal destruction than when control is poor”, he says.

Diabetes New Zealand is conducting activities through 39 societies nationwide to increase awareness and help reduce the numbers of people developing diabetes complications such as gum disease. This year Diabetes Awareness Week is supported by the Ministry of Health, the New Zealand Dental Association, Express Couriers and sanofi-aventis.

Diabetes New Zealand recommends the following steps to help maintain healthy gums, mouth and teeth:
 Manage your blood glucose levels
 Eat healthy foods
 Brush teeth twice daily and floss every day
 Be smokefree
 Check your mouth regularly for any problems including; bleeding gums, dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste
 Visit your dentist at least twice a year and especially if you have any problems with gums, mouth or teeth.


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