A study, led by Dr. Shiela Strauss, Associate Professor of Nursing and Co-Director of the Statistics and Data Management Core for New York University’s Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing, examined data from nearly 3,000 adults in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who had not been diagnosed with diabetes. The results appear in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry in the article titled “The dental office visit as a potential opportunity for diabetes screening: an analysis using NHANES 2003-2004 data.” The results indicate that the majority of people who have periodontal (gum) disease are also at high risk for diabetes. In addition, half of those at risk had seen a dentist in the previous year. This one can draw the conclusion that dentists should consider offering diabetes screenings in their offices.
Dr. Strauss and colleagues determined that 93% of those examined had periodontal disease, compared to 63% of those without the disease, were considered to be at high risk for diabetes and should be screened for diabetes. Diabetes screening is recommended for people at least 45 years of age with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater, as well as for those under 45 years of age with a BMI of 25 or greater who also have at least one diabetes risk factor. Dr. Strauss’s study indicated that a first-degree relative (a parent or sibling) with diabetes and high blood pressure were reported in a significantly greater number of those examined with periodontal disease than in those without periodontal disease.
Dr. Strauss said that dentists can screen patients for diabetes by evaluating them for risk factors such as belonging to a high-risk ethnic group (African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander, being overweight, a first-degree relative with diabetes, having high cholesterol, and/or having high blood pressure.
Dentists can use a glucometer which is a diagnostic instrument for measuring blood glucose. This could potentially be done in one of two ways, 1) analyze finger-stick blood samples, or 2) use the glucometer to evaluate blood samples taken from pockets of inflammation in the gums. Both methods have been shown to be correlated and provide correct results as indicated in an earlier study by Dr. Strauss.