Dentists can help identify patients with diabetes or prediabetes who are unaware of the disease, a new study suggests.
"Periodontal disease is an early complication of diabetes, and about 70 percent of U.S. adults see a dentist at least once a year," said Dr. Ira Lamster, dean of the College of Dental Medicine, and senior author on the paper.
"Prior research focused on identification strategies relevant to medical settings. Oral healthcare settings have not been evaluated before, nor have the contributions of oral findings ever been tested prospectively," added Lamster.
For this study, researchers recruited approximately 600 individuals visiting a dental clinic in Northern Manhattan who were 40-years-old or older (if non-Hispanic white) and 30-years-old or older (if Hispanic or non-white), and had never been told they have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Approximately 530 patients with at least one additional self-reported diabetes risk factor received a periodontal examination and a fingerstick, point-of-care hemoglobin A1c test. In order for the investigators to assess and compare the performance of several potential identification protocols, patients returned for a fasting plasma glucose test, which indicates whether an individual has diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Researchers found that, in this at-risk dental population, a simple algorithm composed of only two dental parameters (number of missing teeth and percentage of deep periodontal pockets) was effective in identifying patients with unrecognized pre-diabetes or diabetes. The addition of the point-of-care A1c test was of significant value, further improving the performance of this algorithm.
"Our findings provide a simple approach that can be easily used in all dental-care settings, said Dr. Evanthia Lalla, an associate professor at the College of Dental Medicine, and the lead author on the paper.
The study has been published in the Journal of Dental Research.