Blood from Periodontal Disease Can Be Used to Screen for Diabetes

Oral blood samples taken from deep pockets of periodontal inflammation can be used to measure hemoglobin A1c, an important gauge of a patient’s diabetes status.

A New York University nursing-dental research team made the discovery, saying this is good news for patients who may find oral blood sampling in a dentist’s office to be less invasive than finger-stick sampling. Early detection of diabetes can help prevent many of the disease’s long-term complications, too.

And researchers say the test has a high level of accuracy. Hemoglobin A1c blood glucose measures from oral blood compare well to those from finger-stick blood.

“In light of these findings, the dental visit could be a useful opportunity to conduct an initial diabetes screening: an important first step in identifying those patients who need further testing to determine their diabetes status,” said Shiela Strauss, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing and co-director of the Statistics and Data Management Core for NYU’s Colleges of Nursing and Dentistry. Dr. Strauss is the study’s principal investigator.

Hemoglobin A1c is widely used to test for diabetes. According to guidelines established by the American Diabetes Association, an A1c reading of 6.5 or more indicates a value in the diabetes range.

The NYU researchers compared hemoglobin A1c levels in paired samples of oral and finger-stick blood taken from 75 patients with periodontal disease at the New York University College of Dentistry. A reading of 6.3 or greater in the oral sample corresponded to a finger-stick reading of 6.5 in identifying the diabetes range, with minimal false positive and false negative results.

The one-year study used a version of a hemoglobin A1c testing kit that was initially developed specifically to enable dentists and dental hygienists to collect finger-stick blood samples. The testing kit was adapted to enable analysis of both oral blood and finger-stick samples.

Dr. Strauss said that the hemoglobin A1c testing method requires only a single drop of blood to be collected, applied to a special blood collection card and mailed to the laboratory.

“There is an urgent need to increase opportunities for diabetes screening and early diabetes detection,” said Dr. Strauss. “The issue of undiagnosed diabetes is especially critical because early treatment and secondary prevention efforts may help to prevent or delay the long-term complications of diabetes that are responsible for reduced quality of life and increased levels of mortality risk.”

The research is part of a series of NYU nursing-dental studies examining the feasibility of screening for diabetes and other physical illnesses in the dental setting. Dr. Strauss plans additional research on oral blood hemoglobin A1c testing involving a broader pool of subjects and dental practice sites.

The findings are from a study funded by an NYU Clinical and Translational Science Institute grant awarded to the research team last year. They were published in November 2011 in the Journal of Periodontology.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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