Type 2 Diabetes – Screening for Diabetes in the Dental Chair

Periodontitis, a disease of the gums and tissues underlying the teeth, is the most common cause of tooth loss and can be a complication of Type 2 diabetes… it is more common when uncontrolled blood sugar is present. High blood sugar causes inflammation, leading to infection by bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria can release dangerous toxins into the bloodstream and even cause death if not treated promptly.

It is estimated about 8 million people in the United States alone are walking around with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can be life-threatening and lead to many serious complications if not diagnosed early. Periodontitis is present in about a quarter of people diagnosed with this form of diabetes.

Researchers at Boise University in Twin Falls, Idaho, United States, looked at the possibility of having Type 2 diabetes diagnosed by dental hygienists when clients are treated for periodontitis. Their study, reported on in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene in March 2015, included 50 participants with periodontitis and at least one other risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes…

  • 16 dental patients were found to have prediabetes, and
  • 17 were diagnosed with full-blown Type 2 diabetes.

Diagnosis and discussion of diabetes with each dental patient took 14 minutes on average, and cost $US9.00. The dental clients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes were advised to see their family doctor within 2 weeks… 9 were seen by their primary care provider within that time frame.

From these findings it was concluded diabetes screening by dental hygienists was an effective and convenient method for Type 2 diabetics to be diagnosed. Test kits for chairside or home use are available, and require only a simple prick of the finger.

Once Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed and the primary care practitioner notified, early treatment can help to prevent further advances in periodontitis as well as other complications related to this form of diabetes. Because blood carries sugar throughout the entire body, most organs can be affected. If weight can be brought down to normal, many times complete remission or dramatic improvement is possible.

A normal HbA1c level is 5 percent. Bringing it down to below 7 percent is the goal most doctors set. This is accomplished with…

  • weight loss,
  • a healthful diet primarily made up of vegetables, and
  • exercise.

If you are overweight or obese, have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, have delivered a baby that weighed over 8 pounds, or are over 50, screening for diabetes when you have and teeth cleaning is something to consider. If you have periodontitis plus another risk factor, it is definitely a good idea.