Diabetes Diagnosed by a Dentist?

Apparently dentists may be able to discover more than just cavities at your next visit. A recent study conducted by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine revealed that there are two dental conditions that can be seen at a dentist visit that may have the ability to diagnose diabetes or even prediabetes.

Many people are unaware of this, but diabetes can directly affect your oral health. People who have been diagnosed with diabetes are generally more at risk for having dental issues due to the lack of control over their blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause interference with the white blood cell’s ability to fight off bacterial infections that take place in your mouth.

Having diabetes that is not under control can also cause decreased saliva flow and as a result, people can have dry mouth. Having a dry mouth can further lead to tooth decay which can lead to loosing teeth. It also can cause soreness and ulcers in the mouth. Diabetes sufferers are also at a higher risk of developing varying levels of gum disease and those with diabetes do not heal as quickly or as well after oral surgery or other dental procedures.

Diabetes affects a large number of people and the issue it becoming a bigger problem as time goes on. More and more people are becoming diagnosed with diabetes and if dentists have the ability to detect diabetes or prediabetes early, it can help people maintain control of their diabetes before more damage is done. If caught early enough, diabetes can actually be reversed. Columbia University researchers discovered that it may seem unconventional, but the disease can indeed be identified while in the dental chair.

Participants of this study included about 600 adults. Those who were non-Hispanic and white were at least 40 years of age and those who were Hispanic or non-white were at least 30 years of age. All participants went to a Northern Manhattan dental clinic. Nearly 530 of the participants were found to have at least one of the risk factors for diabetes based on self-reports. Risk factors include family history of diabetes, being overweight, and having high cholesterol. None of the participants however had ever been diagnosed with having diabetes.

All participants had a periodontal exam along with a test for hemoglobin A1C. This is a blood test which is used in order to both diagnose and monitor diabetes. The results of such testing show the average blood sugar level for each participant within the last 2 or 3 months. Participants were also asked to return and take a fasting test for plasma glucose which will reveal whether or not the participant has diabetes or even prediabetes.

Researchers discovered that there were two oral factors which were rather effective and accurate in revealing which participants had diabetes or prediabetes which hadn’t been diagnosed. One factor was the amount of teeth each participant was missing and the other factor was the depth of periodontal pockets. Periodontal pockets are depressions found within the gums which cause bacteria to build up in these areas. Researchers also found the results of the test for hemoglobin A1C to be valuable in determining whether or not participants had undiagnosed diabetes.

Dr. Evanthia Lalla from the College of Dental Medicine and lead author of the study, noted that the findings reveal a possible new approach which can easily be conducted during dental visits. Being able to identify undiagnosed diseases at the dentist’s office could actually be rather convenient since nearly 70% of all adults throughout the United States visit the dentist annually.