Dentists can aid in identifying individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes

Enlisting dentists in the fight against type 2 diabetes could lead to earlier diagnosis of many individuals who are unaware that they have the metabolic condition, according to a new study out of the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

"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, the senior author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Dental Research.

Given the fact that oral health is so closely linked to type 2 diabetes, Lamster and his team speculated that dentists may be able to easily identify individuals who have the condition or are at risk for developing it.

For the study, researchers sent 600 adults who had one or more risk factors for type 2 diabetes to a dentist who administered a full oral exam. Additionally, the participants submitted to blood tests to assess whether or not they had diabetes or prediabetes.

The results showed that dentists were able to correction identify which patients had the condition or were at risk based simply on the number of missing teeth a person had or the presence of deep periodontal pockets. Additionally, when the dentists were given the results of the blood tests, they were even more accurate in their predictions of which patients had type 2 diabetes.

The researchers said that involving more dentists in screening for type 2 diabetes could play an important role in helping more people get diagnosed at an early stage. When diabetics are identified early it makes it easier for them to make lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk of experiencing complications associated with the condition.
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