Dental and vision exams can help detect diabetes early

Delta Dental of Illinois encourages preventive checkups during American Diabetes Month  

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (Nov. 5, 2020) — Diabetes is a growing problem in Illinois and across the nation. About 1.3 million Illinois adults have diabetes. That’s nearly 13% of the state’s population. But more than a quarter of Illinoisans living with diabetes don’t realize they have this potentially life-threatening disease.1

This November during American Diabetes Month, Delta Dental of Illinois is partnering with the American Diabetes Association to bring awareness to the growing prevalence of diabetes and risks associated with the disease.

“Diabetes is a prime example of how your oral and overall health are connected,” said Dr. Sheila Strock, vice president, dental services and science officer at Delta Dental of Illinois. “Diabetes can increase your risk of gum disease, and gum disease can contribute to the progression of diabetes.”

Connection between oral and overall health

Your mouth and eyes can show early signs of diabetes.

People with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease, which can also lead to tooth loss. Gum disease may also make it harder to manage diabetes by increasing blood sugar levels.2

Other oral health problems associated with diabetes include cavities, dry mouth, burning mouth syndrome, oral infections and problems tasting food. In addition, diabetes can impact your vision by damaging small blood vessels in your retina.

“That’s why preventive checkups are so important,” Strock said. “Even if you may not be aware you have symptoms of diabetes, your dentist or optometrist may notice them during routine exams.”

An oral exam can help detect more than 120 diseases, including diabetes, that show early symptoms in the mouth and jaw.3 During a regular checkup, dentists and dental hygienists remove plaque and tartar that can lead to gum disease.

Those diagnosed with diabetes may need to visit their dentist more frequently for cleanings and preventive care.

Early detection is crucial

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in Illinois and the United States.4 This serious chronic disease has no cure. It affects how your body turns food into energy and places you at greater risk for serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and amputations.

Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, frequent urination, slow-healing sores, fatigue, irritability and blurred vision.

“Illinoisans experiencing any of these symptoms should inform their physician, dentist and optometrist,” Strock said. “Your health care providers can work together to diagnose your condition and help develop a treatment and management plan that’s best for you.”

Tips for preventing and managing diabetes

Not all types of diabetes are preventable. But routine dental and vision exams can help detect diabetes early, while a healthy lifestyle can help lower blood sugar and manage the disease. Steps toward better health include:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods like beans and whole grains.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Avoiding tobacco and consuming alcohol in moderation.
  • Brushing teeth twice and flossing once daily.
  • Visiting the dentist regularly. Since people with diabetes are at higher risk for gum disease, they may need to visit the dentist for additional preventive care, such as more frequent cleanings.

For more tips on protecting your oral and overall health, visit

About Delta Dental of Illinois

Delta Dental is the national dental benefits leader covering 1 in 3 Americans who have dental coverage. Delta Dental of Illinois is one of 39 member companies that make up the national Delta Dental system. Based in Naperville, Illinois, Delta Dental of Illinois provides dental benefit programs to more than 6,000 Illinois companies and covers 2 million individuals, employees and family members nationwide. Delta Dental of Illinois is committed to improving oral health in our community and furthers this commitment through the work of Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation.

1 Illinois Department of Public Health,

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

3 U.S. Surgeon General Report on Oral Health 2000 – Chapter 3 – Diseases and Disorders

4 Illinois Department of Public Health,