Objectives: The bidirectional relationship between periodontitis and diabetes suggests that the dental visit may offer a largely untapped opportunity to screen for undiagnosed diabetes. To better examine this potential opportunity, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2004 were used to determine if a larger proportion of patients with periodontal disease as compared with those without periodontitis would be recommended for screening according to American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines. The data were also used to determine whether at-risk individuals with periodontitis visited a dental professional recently, so that they could avail themselves of this opportunity for screening, if offered.
Methods: Data to perform these analyses were collected from 2,923 subjects aged 20 and older who reported that they were never told that they had diabetes, had a periodontal examination, and had sufficient data to compute body mass index. Descriptive statistics, t-tests, and chi-square analyses that compared those with and without periodontitis were extrapolated to the US population.
Results: A total of 62.9 percent of those without periodontitis and 93.4 percent of those with periodontal disease met ADA guidelines for diabetes screening. Of those at-risk with periodontal disease, 33.9 percent had seen a dentist in the past 6 months, 50 percent in the past year, and 60.4 percent in the past 2 years.
Conclusions: As almost all individuals with periodontitis would have been recommended for diabetes screening, and many at-risk persons with periodontal disease recently visited a dentist, our data suggest that the dental visit provides an important potential venue for this screening.