Teeth tell tales

Dentists could play a pivotal role in helping identify unrecognised diabetes and pre-diabetes, a Columbia University study of patients in a Northern  Manhattan dental clinic has found.

Researchers recruited about 600 adult patients to the study. Of those, 530 had at least one additional self-reported risk factor for diabetes – either family history, high cholesterol, hypertension or overweight/obesity. Those patients received a periodontal examination and a fingerstick HbA1c test. Patients then returned for a fasting plasma glucose test.

Researchers found that in this at-risk dental population, a simple algorithm of only two dental parameters (number of missing teeth and percentage of deep periodontal pockets) was effective in identifying patients with unrecognised pre-diabetes or diabetes. Adding the HbA1c test improved the accuracy of the algorithm even further.

J Dent Res 2011; 90:855-860