Dentists may be able to screen patients for diabetes during routine dental procedures, new research shows.
Patients were screened in a small study in which oral blood was collected during a routine cleaning. This was found to give an HbA1c reading as accurate as by pricking the finger with a needle.
The research was led by Sheila Strauss PhD, from New York University College of Nursing, New York. Strauss’ team collected blood samples from the gums and fingers of 408 patients treated at dental clinics in New York City.
All recruits had reported bleeding gums when brushing or flossing the teeth, and based on American Diabetes Association standards they were told by a healthcare professional that they either had diabetes or were at risk of diabetes.
Participation was limited to people at the greatest risk of diabetes. Recruits had to be at least 45-years-old, or if they were younger then they had to be overweight with an additional risk factor of diabetes, such as having an immediate family member with diabetes.
Blood specimens were sent to a laboratory for HbA1c analysis, with oral blood and finger-prick test results matched in 97.8 per cent of cases when diabetes was diagnosed. The oral blood test was also found to rule out diabetes accurately 99.1 per cent of the time.
“If dentists can screen for diabetes, it may help people get treated sooner when we can get better results managing their disease,” said Strauss.
Strauss did note that as this study was not random, the results may not apply to a wider population of people and additional testing will be needed to prove the screening approach as effective research in identifying diabetes.
The results of this study were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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