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Some of you may have been involved in a study run by the RCH dental team in our clinic in recent years. The study aimed to examine the oral health of eighty children and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes and to also explore factors that might be associated with better dental and oral health outcomes.
Strikingly, the study showed very high rates of dental caries and gingivitis in young people with T1DM in our clinic, regardless of whether their overall diabetes control (assessed by HbA1c) was in the target range in the previous year or not. Overall, 59% of all participants had evidence of dental caries while only 6% of participants had healthy gingiva (gums). These rates of oral health problems are much higher than those found in background population studies of Australian children and adolescents. The reasons for this aren’t clear from this study and need further research.
Really importantly, the study also found that there are things that your family can do that will help to reduce the risk of dental caries and oral health problems. And the good news is that the biggest benefits will come from small changes to your daily routines! In this study, approximately half of children and adolescents with T1DM in our clinic who took part reported they only brushed their teeth once a day or less; this group were ~ten times more likely to have dental caries than those who brush more than once per day. Flossing is also really helpful and those who floss daily (only ~1 in 10 participants) were more than three times less likely to have dental caries.
So there it is! Do your best to support your child to make small changes to brush and floss more frequently and their teeth and gums will really show the benefits.