Severe gum disease, known as periodontitis, could be an early indicator of type 2 diabetes, according to researchers from the Netherlands.
A team from the University of Amsterdam and VU University say that dentists could have a pivotal role in the detection of type 2 diabetes by screening for periodontitis.
This screening could prevent diabetes-related complications developing among patients at high risk of type 2 diabetes and existing prediabetes, they say.
However these observational findings do not draw any conclusions about cause and effect, rather an association between periodontitis and type 2 diabetes.
The results were based on a study of 313 people. Of these participants, 109 had no gum disease, 126 had a mild form and 78 had periodontitis.
The group with periodontitis was found to have the highest average HbA1c values of 6.3% (45 mmol/mol); those in the mild group averaged 6.1% (43 mmol/mol); and the participants with no gum disease averaged 5.7% (39 mmol/mol).
One in five people (18 per cent) in the severe gum disease group were found to have type 2 diabetes. This figure was 10 per cent in the mild group and 8.5 per cent in the group with no gum disease at all.
“This confirms the assumption that severe periodontitis could be an early sign of undiagnosed diabetes,” said the researchers.
“The dental office, with particular focus on patients with severe periodontitis, proved to be a suitable location for screening for prediabetes; a considerable number of suspected new diabetes cases were identified.”
They suggest dental screening for undiagnosed diabetes would be achievable in dental practices, particularly among those with the most severe form of gum disease.
Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser for the British Dental Associatio, who wasn’t involved in the study, told WebMD: “While there may be a role for dentists in the future to screen patients with severe gum disease for type 2 diabetes, there are currently no established protocols to do this and it would require funding in place for training and delivering the service.”
The findings appear online in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care.

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