Dental Diabetes Detection

Dental Diabetes Detection: Does it make sense to offer diabetic screenings in a dental office? New research tends to suggest that under specific circumstances it does.

According to ScienceDaily.com, “An overwhelming majority of people who have periodontal (gum) disease are also at high risk for diabetes and should be screened for diabetes, a New York University nursing-dental research team has found. The researchers also determined that half of those at risk had seen a dentist in the previous year, concluded that dentists should consider offering diabetes screenings in their offices, and described practical approaches to conducting diabetes screenings in dental offices.”

Data was examined from 2,923 adult dental patients over a two-year period. These patients “had not been diagnosed with diabetes.”

Dr. Shiela Strauss is an Associate Professor of Nursing and Co-Director of the Statistics and Data Management Core for NYU’s Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing. Strauss led the study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


According to ScienceDaily.com, “Using guidelines established by the American Diabetes Association, Dr. Strauss determined that 93 percent of subjects who had periodontal disease, compared to 63 percent of those without the disease, were considered to be at high risk for diabetes and should be screened for diabetes. The guidelines recommend diabetes screening for people at least 45 years of age with a body mass index (a comparative measure of weight and height) of 25 or more, as well as for those under 45 years of age with a BMI of 25 or more who also have at least one additional diabetes risk factor. In Dr. Strauss’s study, two of those additional risk factors — high blood pressure and a first-degree relative (a parent or sibling) with diabetes — were reported in a significantly greater number of subjects with periodontal disease than in subjects without the disease. Dr. Strauss’s findings, published today in the online edition of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, add to a growing body of evidence linking periodontal infections to an increased risk for diabetes.”

The reason Strauss suggests using the dental office to conduct diabetic screenings is that many patients will visit the dentist when they will not routinely visit their family doctor, “Three in five reported a dental visit in the past two years; half in the past year; and a third in the past six months,” she said. These statistics seem to suggest a helpful health link between early diagnosis of diabetes and dental visits.

Strauss commented, “The issue of undiagnosed diabetes is especially critical because early treatment and secondary prevention efforts may help to prevent or delay the long-term complications of diabetes that are responsible for reduced quality of life and increased levels of mortality among these patients. Thus, there is a critical need to increase opportunities for diabetes screening and early diabetes detection.”

While it has been suggested dentists might use a standard glucose meter to test blood sugar samples in patients there are others who believe a gum tissue blood sample could be viewed as standard procedure among patients who don’t generally expect a finger prick in a dental office.

We have yet to see if dental offices will become a first line defense for diabetes detection, but the idea does appear to have merit. If a routine dental visit can help identify what is believed to be a large number of undiagnosed cases there may be room for improved quality of life by starting intervention therapies earlier.