Severe gum disease may be early sign of undiagnosed diabetes

Severe gum disease, known as periodontitis, may be an early sign of type 2 diabetes, says a report published in the online journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

People with severe gum disease were found obese – an average BMI of 27 or higher. But other risk factors for diabetes, including high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, were similar among all three groups.

People with mild to moderate gum disease also had more relatives with diabetes than those with no or severe gum disease.

The findings were based on 313 predominantly middle-aged people attending a university dental clinic: 109 had no gum disease; 126 had mild to moderate gum disease; and in 78 it was severe, affecting the supporting structures of the teeth.

Just under 3 per cent of those with no gum disease had already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; this was also the case for 4 per cent of those with mild to moderate gum disease, and for nearly 8 per cent of those with the severe form.

HbA1C values, which measure the average level of blood sugar in the body over the past 2-3 months, were obtained by analysing dried blood spots, which had been sampled from each of the study participants, using a finger pin-prick test.

An HbA1C value of 39-47 mmol/l is considered to indicate ‘pre-diabetes’, while values above that indicate diabetes.

The analysis of the dried blood spots showed that HbA1C values were highest in those with the most severe form of gum disease.

As per the report, it would be feasible to screen for undiagnosed diabetes in dental practices, focusing on people with the most severe form of gum disease.

Picking up diabetes and pre-diabetes early is essential if its associated complications are to be avoided, it add. “The early diagnosis and intervention of (pre) diabetes prevent the common micro vascular and macro vascular complications and are cost effective.”

Furthermore, early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes might also help to stave off the risk of tooth loss that is associated with longstanding and untreated severe gum disease, the report add.

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