1 March 2016 Dental Health & Food Insecurity Can Affect Your Blood Glucose Too!

As many of you already know, managing your diabetes is not just about how many carbs you eat. There’s a lot more to it. Last week, I attended a conference offered by the American Diabetes Association. The speakers were mostly doctors, but there was also a dentist, pharmacist, and nurse practitioner. All of these medical professionals shared valuable information about how to help people with diabetes, from the standpoint of their specialty. But I thought I would share my notes on two specific topics since they are often not talked about enough in diabetes care and education: dental health and food security.

Dental Health & Diabetes

The speaker for this talk was Sangeetha Chandrasekaran, BDS, MS. The speaker did not recommend this website specifically, but you can learn more about periodontal disease in this fact sheet by Perio.org.

  • Disease and damage to your teeth and gums can affect inflammation throughout your entire body, which can cause higher blood glucose levels.
  • On the flip side, diabetes of any type can increase risk for damage to your teeth and gums (periodontal disease).
  • Spaces that widen between teeth could be a sign of periodontal disease.
  • Whereas your doctor might want to save a limb, your dentist will want to save a tooth.
  • Brush your teeth and floss daily to protect teeth and gums.
  • Fluoride and mouthwash rinse is not a substitute for brushing and flossing – but you can add it to your routine.
  • See your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning.
  • Your A1C level (an indicator of average blood glucose over 3 months) can be reduced by better dental hygiene and check-ups.
  • Tell your dentist that you have diabetes, especially before dental surgery.

Food Insecurity & Diabetes

Sandra Hoyt Stenmark, M.D. gave the talk, “Addressing Social Determinants in a Medical Setting to Improve Diabetes Care.” As a pediatrician, she said that she became aware of how poverty and limited access to healthful foods had a huge impact on how well people, especially families, could manage their health. This extends to diabetes control too. These are my notes from her talk. If you would like a definition of food insecurity, then please visit the USDA.

  • 1/3 of all U.S. adults with chronic illness can’t afford food, medicine, or both.
  • 1 in 7 people go to bed hungry.
  • Single moms with children have the highest rate of food insecurity.
  • Food insecure households eat less fruit, veggies, and dairy.
  • Food insecure households consume fewer vitamins and minerals.
  • Food insecurity is linked to obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, iron deficiency, and irritability.
  • People with diabetes who are food insecure also have more trouble controlling their blood glucose. They are more likely to have an A1C > 8.5% (versus standard goal of A1C < 7%).
  • Food insecurity is also linked to more diabetes distress, hospitalizations, low blood glucose events, depression, and less sleep.

At Kaiser Permanente (where Dr. Hoyt Stenmark practices), this question is used to screen for food insecurity:

“In the past 3 months, have you worried whether your food would run out before you had money to buy more?”

If the person answers yes, then two things happen. 1. Person is provided with information about food assistance programs and 2. Hunger Free Hotline in Colorado is notified (with person’s consent) and the staff contacts the patient. This has been successful in making sure people who need and want food assistance get the support and resources they need.

By the way, if you answered yes to the question above, then maybe you might benefit from food assistance as well. For more information about federal food assistance programs in the United States, check out Feeding America.

I also encourage you to share financial issues with your healthcare provider even if they don’t ask – especially when it affects your ability to fill your prescriptions or buy enough food. They might know of medication coupons you can use to reduce out of pocket costs, or food assistance programs in your local area.

There are a lot of balls in the air when it comes to juggling diabetes. For more information on diabetes, please visit the American Diabetes Association. Also take advantage of diabetes tracking at MyNetDiary. This article has some basic tips for getting started.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Diabetes/Blood glucose

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