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Taking care of your gums could decrease risk for diabetes

Regular dental visits aren't just good for your mouth — they could be helping you decrease your risk for diabetes.

A new study in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry has linked periodontal infections with an increased risk for diabetes.

The study, led by Sheila Strauss, Ph.D., co-director of the Statistics and Management Core at New York University's Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing, examined the data of 2,923 non-diabetic adults who participated in the 2003-04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

By using guidelines from the American Diabetes Association, the researchers determined that 93 percent of the subjects with periodontal disease were considered high risk for diabetes and should be screened for the disease, compared to the 63 percent without periodontal disease.

The study also examined how many times the patients with periodontal disease and a risk for diabetes visited a dentist and found that 60 percent reported a visit in the past two years, 50 percent in the past year and 33 percent in the past six months.

The American Diabetes Association reports that 5.7 million Americans with diabetes went undiagnosed in 2007. By adding dentists to the list of health care providers involved in early screenings, more people can receive crucial early treatment.

"In light of these findings," Dr. Strauss said, "the dental visit could be a useful opportunity to conduct an initial diabetes screening — an important first step in identifying those patients who need follow-up testing to diagnose the disease."

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

12/23/2009

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