One in three Americans will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetime if current trends continue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chances are a significant number of your employees are — or will be — seriously affected by the disease.

The estimated annual cost of diabetes in the U.S. is more than $327 billion, meaning that almost one in four dollars spent on health care is used to care for people with diabetes. The estimated cost in lost productivity alone is $90 billion. And research shows that the higher health care spending associated with diabetes actually begins well before diagnosis.

Fortunately, early screening and detection can help delay or even prevent complications from diabetes. Evidence suggests that periodontal changes are the first clinical manifestation of the condition. Regular dental check-ups can play a crucial role in reducing the devastating toll of diabetes.

November is American Diabetes Month, so it’s the perfect time to raise awareness and share resources with your employees. It’s important to highlight the role of regular check-ups in early diagnosis, as well as the importance of oral health care in managing diabetes.

The role of oral health care in diabetes

Many of your employees with diabetes probably aren’t even aware that they have the disease. As many as 20% of people who have diabetes don’t know they do, according to the CDC, and most with prediabetes (84%) are unaware of their condition.

Diabetes causes serious problems throughout the body, and the mouth is no exception. Diabetes can increase the sugar in saliva, which feeds the bacteria that cause tooth decay and cavities. It also reduces the body’s ability to fight oral infection. People with diabetes have a higher chance of developing gum disease, which can lead to pain, chewing difficulties and even tooth loss.

An oral exam can help detect diabetes because, like many other conditions, it often shows its first symptoms in the mouth.

Oral symptoms of diabetes to watch out for include:

  • Red, tender or swollen gums
  • A reduced or altered sense of taste
  • Bleeding gums
  • Dry mouth
  • A burning sensation in the mouth
  • Chronic bad breath or bad taste
  • Teeth that are loose or separating from each other
  • Oral infections that are slow to heal

Educate your employees on diabetes and oral health

Consider posting these early warning signs on your company’s website or social media, and advise employees experiencing symptoms to tell their dentist or physician. If symptoms are detected early enough, your employees can not only delay but possibly prevent progression.

Try some of these resources to help remind your employees of the importance of early diagnosis during American Diabetes Month:

Remind employees with diabetes to take time to check their mouths regularly for any problems and to visit the dentist for check-ups and cleaning.

Offer support to employees with diabetes

If you don’t already, consider offering SmileWay® Wellness Benefits as part of your employees’ dental package. Available for Delta Dental PPO™ plans, SmileWay Wellness Benefits are specifically for employees diagnosed with chronic health conditions such as diabetes. The benefits can provide these employees with additional annual cleanings and gum treatments that help treat oral issues associated with these conditions.

Eligible enrollees can receive these added benefits each calendar or contract year:

  • 100% coverage for one scaling and root planing procedure per quadrant (D4341 or D4342)
  • 100% coverage for four procedures from the following list, in any combination:
    • Prophylaxis (D1110 or D1120)
    • Periodontal maintenance procedure (D4910)
    • Scaling in the presence of moderate or severe gingival inflammation (D4346)

If your company offers SmileWay Wellness Benefits, remind employees they can easily opt in online by logging in and navigating to the optional benefits.

During American Diabetes Month, don’t forget to remind your employees about the central role oral health can play in preventing and managing diabetes.