Can the dentist play a vital role in detecting Type 2 diabetes?

Young man having medical procedure at dentist office. Dentist drilling and cleaning teeth.
© iStock/vgajic

Dentists could play an integral role in the identification and early detection of people at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Research out of the University of Birmingham, UK, found that by using risk assessment tools including patient questionnaires and point of care blood testing in a dental surgery setting it could pave the way for better outcomes for patients and subsequently improved diabetes management.

Linking gum disease to diabetes

According to the World Health Organisation, Type 2 diabetes has been significantly linked to severe gum disease (periodontitis) and is thought to affect around 422 million adults across the globe.

In its early stages type 2 diabetes is largely asymptomatic and many individuals can go undiagnosed for years. However, with established links between compromised glycaemic status and oral health, dental professionals could be vital in the identification of the condition.

Engaging the dental workforce to identify diabetes

Lead researcher Professor Iain Chapple, Head of the University of Birmingham’s School of Dentistry said: “Our review identified positive attitudes of physicians, dental team members, patients and the public towards risk assessing and early case detection of diabetes and pre-diabetes within the dental surgery. Patients also strongly supported tests being undertaken that provided immediate results.

“Not only does this demonstrate that there may be a benefit in engaging the dental workforce to identify these cases, but also shows a need for a more ‘joined up’ approach to care pathways between physicians and dental practitioners.”

The research, published in the Current Oral Health Reports, builds on joint international guidance published last year on gum disease and diabetes, which recommends closer working pathways between oral health care professionals and physicians, and a commissioning standard issued in 2019 by NHS England, setting out a vision for the implementation of such joint working practices.

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