New research published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care suggests severe gum disease, or periodontitis, might be an early sign of diabetes. The authors also suggest a simple finger stick diabetes screening procedure could be carried out in the dental surgery to help avoid the adverse effects of leaving diabetes untreated.
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands assessed a total of 313 participants from a dental clinic at the university. Of these, 126 patients had mild-to-moderate gum disease, 78 patients had severe periodontitis, and 198 individuals did not have signs of gum disease.
Participants with periodontitis had a higher body mass index (BMI) than the rest, with an average BMI of 27. Other diabetes risk factors – such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol – were similar across all three groups.
The researchers analysed higher glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) values in dry blood spots, and evaluated the differences in mean HbA1c values, as well as the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes between the two groups.
HbA1c values measure the average level of blood sugar in the last two to three months. The dry blood spots were obtained by sampling participants’ blood using a finger pin-prick test.
The analysis revealed that those with the most severe form of periodontitis were also the most likely to have prediabetes.
Additionally, the researchers found a high percentage of people with suspected diabetes and prediabetes among participants with mild-to-moderate and severe gum disease.