Diabetes is completely out of control in this country. The CDC estimates that one in three adults in the U.S. will be diabetic by 2050. Today, there are 79 million pre-diabetics in the U.S.; which is three times greater than the number of presently diagnosed diabetics. This is a diabetic avalanche; we can’t see the snow roaring down the mountainside, but it is coming.
The dental profession needs to be better prepared to assist, as the medical profession is clearly overwhelmed. New diabetic screening methods are being researched such as salivary glucose levels and salivary biomarkers. Finger stick diabetes screening has been approved in New Jersey dental offices, while several other states have this under consideration. One obstacle involves each state’s dental board scope of practice language. For example, the New York State dental board indicates that; “[t]he practice of dentistry may include performing physical evaluations in conjunction with the provision of dental treatment.” Explicit language permitting dental diabetes testing would facilitate wider implementation. It would also allow the potential for testing to be billed to Medicaid and private health insurers.
Our present efforts to educate patients on topics such as the interconnections between periodontal disease and diabetes, nutritional counseling and numerous others are worthwhile and should continue. However, the opportunity to screen a large number of individuals for undiagnosed diabetes and pre-diabetes is being missed. Early intervention is the key to improving the lifespan and health span of diabetic individuals. By lobbying our state dental boards to include diabetic screening, dental professionals will be able to assist with the management of the estimated one in three adults in the U.S. that will be diabetic by 2050.
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