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Is a dental checkup the key to diabetes screening?

Statistics from the World Health Organization show that diabetes will rank among the top ten causes of death by 2030 and that roughly one in ten people across the globe had the condition in 2014.

As discouraging as these numbers are, consider that studies have also shown that over eight million people here in the U.S. have diabetes yet are completely unaware of this frightening reality, meaning they aren't able to take the vital steps of seeing a doctor or changing their potentially unhealthy habits.

The good news is that a recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health shows that there may be a very simple way to help people learn whether they are diabetics: a trip to the dentist's office.

As part of the study, researchers at New York University gathered blood samples from both the gums and fingertips of 408 people at dental clinics throughout the city. These 408 people were all identified as having certain risk factors that put them at an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes, including age (over 45), obesity and family history to name only a few.    

Analysis of the fingertip blood samples and the oral-blood samples revealed the following:

  • The two tests matched 97.8 percent of the time in diagnosing diabetes and 92.9 percent of the time in diagnosing pre-diabetes.
  • The oral-blood test accurately ruled out a diabetes diagnosis 99.1 percent of the time.

"If dentists can screen for diabetes, it may help people get treated sooner when we can get better results managing their disease," said one of the study authors.

It should be noted that the researchers indicated that further research had to be undertaken to verify the results, and that, if this was practice was adopted by dentists, they would need more training on how to explain test results and put people in touch with the proper providers.

It's important for people diagnosed with diabetes that is so debilitating that it prevents them from working to understand that they may be able to secure Social Security disability benefits to help cover their financial needs and that an experienced legal professional can guide them through the entire process.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Dentists might be able to screen for diabetes," Lisa Rapaport, March 5, 2015

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