Diabetes is becoming a common household condition with increasing numbers of people being diagnosed every year.

In an Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study it was found that 7.4 per cent of Australians over age 25 had diabetes, and half of them were unaware.

Diabetes is a serious health condition in which the body does not produce insulin, or does so at a decreased level. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is needed to convert sugar and other food into energy. When someone has diabetes the low levels of insulin means that glucose is not taken up from the blood and into the cells where it is required and the level of sugar in the blood remains too high.

There are different types of diabetes: type 1 is more common in younger people and is due to reduced production of insulin by the pancreas. This is commonly treated with insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes, otherwise known as ‘late onset diabetes', is more common in middle age, although it can still occur in younger people. Type two is associated with lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity and a large consumption of fatty and sugary foods. Due to this, treatment is usually in conjunction with dietary changes. Gestational diabetes mellitus is another form of diabetes which can develop during pregnancy. Blood glucose levels appear higher for the first time in a woman's life during the pregnancy. It usually resolves after the baby is born, however it's an indicator of an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes can often be managed with changes to diet and exercise, and sometimes insulin is required. Research indicates approximately 5 per cent of pregnant women are affected by gestational diabetes.

Diabetes can lead to complications with the heart, kidneys and eyes, as well as other serious problems which can become fatal. One of the first symptoms of diabetes is dry mouth, so therefore may be detected by your dental professional before it's diagnosed by your medical doctor. Severe gum disease, known as periodontal disease, is twice as likely in someone with poor diabetes control. Having diabetes may put someone at greater risk of developing other conditions of the mouth such as tooth decay and thrush, especially if they are wearing dentures. It is also likely that poor oral health can cause diabetes control to become more difficult - this is why it's vital that people with diabetes keep their mouth healthy.

Some of the common first signs of diabetes include: dry mouth, weight loss without trying, fatigue, blurred vision, excessive urination and becoming consistently hungry or thirsty. If you are concerned that you may have diabetes, please seek medical advice. A simple blood glucose test may just provide you the answer to your symptoms or alleviate any concerns you may have. As of this year Casey Dentist will be offering complimentary and optional blood glucose screening testing for those patients who wish to find out what their blood sugar levels are and if they need to seek further medical advice. Please ask your dental hygienist at your next appointment.

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