Dentists at the Front Line in Diabetes Epidemic

Severe gum disease can signal undiagnosed case of blood sugar disease.

You’d probably be surprised if your dentist said you might have type 2 diabetes. But new research finds that severe gum disease may be a sign the illness is present and undiagnosed.

The study found that nearly one in five people with severe gum disease (periodontitis) had type 2 diabetes and didn’t know it. The researchers said these findings suggest that the dentist’s office may be a good place for a prediabetes or type 2 diabetes screening.

“Be aware that worsened oral health — in particular, periodontitis — can be a sign of an underlying [condition], such as diabetes,” said study author Dr. Wijnand Teeuw. He’s the chief of the periodontology clinic at the Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

“Early diagnosis and treatment of both periodontitis and diabetes will benefit the patient by preventing further complications,” Teeuw added.

Diabetes is a worldwide epidemic. In 2010, it was estimated that 285 million adults worldwide had diabetes. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to 552 million, according to the study authors. It’s suspected that as many as one-third of people who have diabetes are unaware they have the disease.

Untreated, diabetes can lead to a number of serious complications, such as vision problems, serious kidney disease, heart trouble and infections that take a long time to heal, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Periodontitis — an infection that causes inflammation of the gums and destruction of the bones that support the teeth — is often considered a complication of diabetes, Teeuw said.

The current study included more than 300 people from a dental clinic in Amsterdam with varying levels of periodontitis or healthy gums. Approximately 125 had mild to moderate periodontitis and almost 80 had severe periodontitis. The rest had healthy gums.

Read more: