More than 90% of people with gum disease are at risk for diabetes, study finds

NEW YORK A study published in the online edition of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry found an overwhelming majority of people who have periodontal (gum) disease also are at high risk for diabetes and should be screened for diabetes.

A New York University nursing-dental research team determined that half of those at risk had seen a dentist in the previous year, and concluded that dentists should consider offering diabetes screenings in their offices, and described practical approaches to conducting diabetes screenings in dental offices.

The study, led by Shiela Strauss, associate professor of nursing and co-director of the Statistics and Data Management Core for NYU's Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing, examined data from 2,923 adult participants in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who had not been diagnosed with diabetes. The survey, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States.

Using guidelines established by the American Diabetes Association, Dr. Strauss determined that 93% of subjects who had periodontal disease, compared with 63% of those without the disease, were considered to be at high risk for diabetes and should be screened for diabetes. The guidelines recommended diabetes screening for people at least 45 years of age with a body mass index (a comparative measure of weight and height) of 25 or more, as well as for those under 45 years of age with a BMI of 25 or more who also have at least one additional diabetes risk factor.

In Dr. Strauss's study, two of those additional risk factors -- high blood pressure and a first-degree relative (a parent or sibling) with diabetes -- were reported in a significantly greater number of subjects with periodontal disease than in subjects without the disease.

"It's been estimated that 5.7 million Americans with diabetes were undiagnosed in 2007," Strauss said, "with the number expected to increase dramatically in coming years. The issue of undiagnosed diabetes is especially critical because early treatment and secondary prevention efforts may help to prevent or delay the long-term complications of diabetes that are responsible for reduced quality of life and increased levels of mortality among these patients. Thus, there is a critical need to increase opportunities for diabetes screening and early diabetes detection."

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