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Dentists can spot undiagnosed diabetes

Journal of Dental Research,
July 2011

Dentists can spot undiagnosed diabetes

Dentists may be able to help spot undiagnosed diabetes or identify people with pre-diabetes. By identifying people with the disease who are unaware of their condition, routine dental checkups present an opportunity for dentists to help fight the diabetes epidemic.

Periodontal disease is an early complication of diabetes. Prior research focused on identification of strategies relevant to medical settings. Oral healthcare settings have not been evaluated before, nor have the contributions of oral findings ever been tested prospectively.

Researchers recruited 601 people visiting a dental clinic who had never been told they had diabetes or pre-diabetes. Of that group, roughly 530 patients reported having at least one risk factor for the disease, such as high blood pressure or obesity. The patients were given a periodontal examination and blood tests to evaluate for diabetes.

The researchers found that just the number of missing teeth and the percentage of deep periodontal pockets might be effective in identifying people with unrecognized pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Since one in four Americans with type 2 diabetes remains undiagnosed - and those with pre-diabetes are at risk for type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease, stroke and other vascular problems - the findings could provide a relatively simple way to help fight the diabetes epidemic.

Early recognition of diabetes has been the focus of efforts from medical and public health colleagues for years, as early treatment of affected individuals can limit the development of many serious complications. Relatively simple lifestyle changes in pre-diabetic individuals can prevent progression to frank diabetes, so identifying this group of individuals is also important.

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