Worried about Diabetes? Book Yourself an Appointment at the Dentist

At-home dental care is important, but many people skimp on their home routine, relying instead on their semi-annual cleanings to do the bulk of the work. In fact, only 50% of Americans follow the American Dental Association’s recommendation to floss twice a day — and a fifth of Americans never floss at all, relying on their cleanings and exams to catch any minor issues before they become big problems.

But your next dental exam might be able to catch a much bigger problem than just plaque buildup or a cavity — it could tell you whether or not you have diabetes.

A recent study conducted by the University of Buffalo and published in the Journal of the American Dental Association attempted to demonstrate the effectiveness of diabetes testing in the dental office. Organizers of the study posited that, since nearly two-thirds of Americans visit a dentist at least once a year, diabetes screening in these environments could lead to more early diagnoses. And early diagnoses can help better manage diabetic complications, such as blindness, kidney failure, and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that as many as 25 million people may have diabetes — and that over a quarter of that population doesn’t even know it. Diabetic complications are more likely to occur the longer the condition goes untreated. Diagnosis is a crucial first step. And the earlier, the better.

While the dentist’s office does provide an opportune place to test a higher volume of patients, there is also a strong dental connection to early diabetes diagnosis.

“Research has shown that uncontrolled diabetes is associated with an increased progression of periodontal disease,” said Robert J. Genco, DDS, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology and Microbiology and Immunology, and the first author of the University of Buffalo’s study. “And those with diabetes and periodontal disease may have worse glycemic control and may be at greater risk for heart and kidney complications.”

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