A study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that physicians may not be the only healthcare professionals who can help individuals with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes seek necessary care. Dentists may see the first signs of uncontrolled diabetes in gum disease and other oral health problems during routine cleaning visits.
The research involved 600 individuals who visited a dentist for a routine examination. None of the participants had ever been told that they had diabetes, but 530 subjects reported that they had at least one risk factor for the disease, such as a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, or excess body weight.
Individuals who were found to have missing teeth or deep periodontal pockets were given an HbA1c test to measure their average blood sugar levels over the previous three months.
The study's results showed that this method was effective in diagnosing patients with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
"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 of the paper.
The American Diabetes Association explains that diabetics are at high risk for developing gum disease. Symptoms of the latter condition include bleeding, tender or swollen gums.
The organization recommends regular brushing, flossing, and visits to the dentist as ways to avoid periodontal disease. And remember, a dentist is a key member of your diabetes care team after diagnosis too.