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Dentists could diagnose dia­betes and pre­dia­betes

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Posted November 1, 2019

Do you know how many people in the world suffer from diabetes? About 422 million, according to World Health Organization, but we can’t know for certain. The issue here is that many people who are suffering from diabetes live without diagnosis. This is a huge problem, but scientists think that one opportunity for diagnosis is still not being exploited.

Dentists could help diagnosing diabetes early. Image credit: Leeds City Council via Wikimedia

Researchers in Finland have developed an easy-to-use ‘chairside’ rapid test for diagnosing periodontal disease, known as aMMP-8. Periodontal disease, also known as inflammatory gum disease, affects the tissues surrounding the teeth, but is proved to be related with a number of systemic diseases. Periodontal disease is usually caused by bacteria in the mouth infecting the tissue around the teeth. Symptoms include gums pulling away from the teeth, bone loss, bad breath and even loss of some teeth.

The test, developed by scientists at the University of Helsinki has been on the market for about 5 years. It is actually a very simple immunotest, measuring the aMMP-8 concentration of oral fluids. It is a simple oral rinse test, which only takes about five minutes. Elevated concentrations of the MMP-8 enzyme indicate the presence of bacteria that cause periodontal disease and if the test comes out positive, then doctors can begin assessing what kind of treatment is urgently necessary. But that aMMP-8 test could also help diagnosis diabetes and pre­dia­betes.

That is what scientists from the University of Helsinki, Karolinska Institutet and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki have found. In order for aMMP-8 test to work in diabetes and prediabetes detection, the patient has to fit a certain criteria. Also, this test does not work in this way by itself – HbA1c test combined with the aMMP-8 rapid test is a reliable and efficient way of identifying undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes. As Professor Timo Sorsa, on whose research aMMP-8 test was based, said: “It seems that the aMMP-8 rapid test is a useful tool for screening for both periodontal disease as well as diabetes and prediabetes”.

Of course, it will take a little bit more time until this test is established in its new role. However, then diabetes could be diagnosed during a visit to the dentist. If the results would be positive, that person would then have to go consult his family doctor to get a more accurate, final diagnosis and the treatment.

Getting diabetes or prediabetes diagnosis during a dental appointment make more sense than it may seem. Dentists can see some of the symptoms of diabetes and are always easier to reach. They have medical degrees, they are well-educated to do such tests and patients trust them. It is just another “just-in-case” test that could be done in some cases when there are some markers for diabetes.

 

Sources: WHO, University of Helsinki

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