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Dentists: The Forgotten Link

Researchers say that dentists can help identify patients with diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions.

Dental visits may offer a way to help identify people with diabetes or pre-diabetes who are unaware of their condition, U.S. researchers say.

Senior author Dr. Ira Lamster, dean of Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, and colleagues recruited approximately 600 people visiting a dental clinic in New York who were age 40 or older if non-Hispanic white, and 30-years-old or older, if Hispanic or non-white, who had never been told they have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

About 530 patients with at least one additional self-reported diabetes risk factor — family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension or overweight/obesity — received a periodontal examination and a fingerstick, point-of-care hemoglobin A1c test.

To assess and compare the performance of several potential identification protocols, the study participants returned for a fasting plasma glucose test.

The study found for the at-risk population among the dental patients, a simple examination of two dental parameters — number of missing teeth and percentage of deep periodontal pockets — was effective in identifying patients with unrecognized diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Published in the Journal of Dental Research, July 2011