Researchers in the US have found that it is possible to combine a standard oral hygiene procedure with an accurate diabetes test, meaning that dentists could routinely screen for the condition during check ups.
Using the small amount of blood that appears on the gums during oral cleaning was found to be as effective as the standard finger prick test in terms of detecting diabetes. The two methods produced identical results in 97.8 per cent of diabetic patients, and 92.9 per cent of those with pre-diabetes. The oral blood provided an accurate result in 99.1 per cent of patients without diabetes or pre-diabetes.
The disease is increasingly common, with 10 per cent of adults affected worldwide in 2014. In fact, diabetes is set to become the seventh most common cause of death by 2030, according to World Health Organisation statistics. Of those affected, the vast majority have type two diabetes.
The screening is most effective when people are selected according to risk levels. For the study, those tested had at least one of the following risk factors: being over the age of 45, being overweight, and not exercising. Only those who experienced bleeding gums when cleaning their teeth were tested, to ensure that enough blood could be collected.
However, this means that the selection was not completely random, as bleeding gums are often caused by periodontal disease or gingivitis, both of which are more common in people with diabetes.
Lead study author Sheila Strauss said: “There are more than eight million people in this country [the US] who have diabetes and don’t know it, and many of these people see a dentist much more regularly than they see a primary care provider.”
She claimed that many people see dentists for general check-ups even when they do not visit a general practitioner on a regular basis, meaning that more cases could be diagnosed at an earlier stage.
The research was published in the American Journal of Public Health.