11 Mar

New study claims dentists could play a more active role in detecting type 2 diabetes

A new study has revealed that dental professionals could play a more active role in the detection of type 2 diabetes.

Research carried out by a team at the University of Birmingham suggested that dentists could do more to identify patients at risk of diabetes by using risk assessment tools. Examples of measures that could be employed by dentists include patient questionnaires and blood testing. The study found that using these tools led to improved patient outcomes and early detection.

Professor Iain Chapple, head of the university’s School of Dentistry, explained that dentists are well-positioned to engage with patients and to utilise techniques and tools that could improve early detection and highlight at-risk patients. 

During the study, patients, dental professionals and team members reacted positively to risk assessment measures and Prof Chapple believes that dentists have an important role to play in the diagnosis and detection of diabetes and pre-diabetes in years to come. Diabetes is a condition that has become more prevalent in the UK. Although there are effective treatments available, many people are unaware that they have diabetes until they present with potentially serious symptoms. Careful management is key to lower the risk of complications, including dental health, vision and foot care problems, nerve damage, heart disease and impaired kidney function. 

The fact that patients often see dentists more frequently than doctors could hold the key to early diagnosis. Many patients don’t have obvious symptoms in the early stages of diabetes, and this is where dentists can make the difference. As diabetes is linked to oral health issues, most notably gum disease, dentists are in an excellent position to spot early warning signs. If a patient is encouraged to have further tests or to see their doctor, this could accelerate the diagnostic process and prevent symptoms from getting worse. In cases of pre-diabetes, it may even be possible to prevent the individual from developing diabetes.

The paper, which is entitled, ‘The Role of the Oral Healthcare Team in Identification of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review’ has been published in the Current Oral Health Reports journal.