Diabetes Tests Administered at the Dentist

A study in the Journal of the American Dental Association suggests that periodontal disease and diabetes go hand in hand.

The HbA1c blood test for diabetes can now be performed successfully at the dentist, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Because researchers recognized that about two thirds of individuals in the US visit a dentist at least yearly, they developed a diabetes test.

“Research has shown that uncontrolled diabetes is associated with increased progression of periodontal disease,” Robert J. Genco, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology and Microbiology and Immunology, the study’s first author, said in a press release. “And those with diabetes and periodontal disease may have even worse glycemic control and may be at greater risk for heart and kidney complications.”

Researchers screened 1,022 patients 45 years or older who were unaware of their diabetes status. Patients were referred to a physician for follow-up and diagnosis if their HbA1c levels were 5.7 or greater, indicating pre-diabetic or diabetic levels. Of the 416 participants (40.7%) referred to a physician, 35.1% received a diagnosis of diabetes within 1 year.

The study also explored racial differences among diabetes testing and diagnosis: 78.8% of participants were screened in community health centers and had a high risk of developing diabetes. Only 21.4% were seen in private dental offices, and less than a quarter of those patients were high-risk. Genco noted participants tested in the community health centers were primarily African-American and Hispanic, populations with a higher incidence of diabetes.