Vitality

Bleeding Gums May Reveal Diabetes: How Oral Blood Signals Unhealthy Blood Glucose Levels

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Oral blood may soon be a new route for diagnosing diabetes. CC BY 2.0

A new study out of New York University suggests that dental care may be a more effective route to diagnosing diabetes than regular primary care physicians: the blood of your gums could be an easy way for dentists to test if your blood glucose is too high.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that gingival crevicular blood (GCB) could be used for hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) testing, which is a common diagnostic tool for diabetes as well as glycemic control monitoring. Blood tests can show whether a person has high levels of blood glucose, which can be a sign of diabetes as well as pre-diabetes. During 2013 and 2014, the authors performed HbA1c testing on dried blood samples from gingival crevicular blood, and compared them with “gold-standard” HbA1c tests with dried finger-stick blood samples from NYC dental clinic patients. The GCB testing provided results nearly as accurate as ones obtained by finger stick blood (FSB).

“In light of findings from the study, the dental visit could be a useful opportunity to conduct diabetes screening among at-risk, undiagnosed patients — an important first step in identifying those who need further testing to determine their diabetes status,” Dr. Shiela Strauss, lead author of the study, said in the press release.

Some 8 million of the 29 million Americans with diabetes are undiagnosed, the authors state, and most diabetics have poor glycemic control. They argue that because many Americans are more likely to visit a dentist every year rather than a primary care physician, it might make more sense to provide diabetes screenings at dental providers — and it could help diagnose many people who would otherwise go unnoticed.

“Our study has considerable public health significance because we identify the value and importance of capitalizing on an opportunity at the dental visit (a) to screen at-risk, but as yet undiagnosed patients for diabetes (especially those 45 years or older) and (b) to monitor glycemic control in those already diagnosed so as to enable them to maintain their health to the greatest extent possible,” Strauss said in the press release.

For diabetes patients, keeping normal blood glucose levels “can be a lifesaver,” the American Diabetes Association states. Maintaining lower glucose levels can lengthen a diabetic’s life. In order to do so, the ADA suggests you pay attention to your diet and exercise, measure blood glucose levels often, and stay on top of your insulin schedule.

Source: Strauss S, Rosedale M, Pesce M, Rindskopf D, Kaur N, Juterbock C. “The Potential for Glycemic Control Monitoring and Screening for Diabetes at Dental Visits Using Oral Blood.” American Journal of Public Health, 2015.

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