Diabetes – Michael Watson’s perspective as a patient

shutterstock_155699036Last Monday I spent an away day at a football stadium to educate myself in managing my type two diabetes.

Organised by Diabetes UK and sponsored by Tesco, it was an excellent course and attracted 100+ people.

We were given a list of 15 ‘care essentials’ that need to be checked, from blood sugar, retina, feet blood pressure and cholesterol to getting emotional and psychological support, plus what to do if I am expecting a baby.

What was missing?

Yes dentistry, not a mention of the need to have regular periodontal checks.

I asked the course organiser why not, and she said that the question had been asked before.

The answer from Diabetes UK HQ was that dental checks are something that everyone should be having whether they had diabetes or not.

They do things differently in the USA.

There the National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov) says: ‘People with diabetes are at special risk for periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gum and bone that hold the teeth in place.

‘Periodontal disease can lead to painful chewing difficulties and even tooth loss.’

It also advises that people with poor blood glucose control get gum disease more often and more severely than people whose diabetes is well controlled.

Back in England, general practitioners (GPs) have to keep a register of all their patients with diabetes and ensure they have the necessary checks, not all of which can be done in their practices.

GPs are under no obligation to inform the patient’s dentist when diabetes is diagnosed.

Dentists are under no obligation to inform the patient’s GP about their oral health.

Speaking as a diabetic patient, I would like to see some joined-up thinking on my care, whether it is provided by my GP, the practice nurse, an optician, podiatrist or dentist.

At present, dentists are looked upon as an optional extra, not a vital member of the diabetic care team.

And while politicians are pondering this, I think my dental care, like that afforded by every other health care professional, should be ‘free at the point of delivery.’

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