First results of the DiabetRisk study – Over 8% of patients identified with undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes at dental practices

17 November 2020

The first results of a significant new research project, the DiabetRisk study, show the key role dental practices could play in the early detection of diabetes for thousands of dental patients each year – and in every country worldwide according to its researchers.

The findings of the pioneering DiabetRisk study of 1,143 adult patients at 41 dental practices across Spain concluded that a simple screening protocol combining a FINDRISC questionnaire and HbA1c blood test identified 96% of patients with undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes during a dental visit. Commissioned by the SEPA Research Network of Dental Clinics from the ETEP Research Group at Complutense University of Madrid and sponsored by multinational oral healthcare company, Sunstar, the results of the three-year study have just been released by SEPA (Spanish Society of Periodontology) at a time when people with diabetes are more likely to suffer severe symptoms or complications from the Coronavirus.

Out of 1,143 patients, 97 patients more than 8% were identified with undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes. The study found that using a FINDRISC (FINnish Diabetes Risk Score) questionnaire completed by each patient alone detected undiagnosed hyperglycemia with 87% accuracy.

The FINDRISC questionnaire evaluated risk factors such as age, consumption of fruit and vegetables, physical exercise, family history of diabetes mellitus. Patients also received a basic periodontal examination. Complementing the questionnaire results with a chair-side HbA1c test – to provide an average blood glucose level for the last two to three months – increased the diagnosis accuracy to 96%.

The study has also corroborated the link that patients with the worst cases of periodontal disease are more likely to have pre-diabetes or diabetes. If a patient suffers from both conditions at the same time there is an increased risk of developing complications from diabetes earlier, since gum disease is an inflammatory disease that can increase systemic inflammation. In turn, this promotes insulin resistance, leading to impaired blood sugar control.

The DiabetRisk study demonstrates that a simple screening protocol combining the FINDRISC questionnaire and an HbA1c blood test is a simple, efficient and affordable way to identify patients with early undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes during a dental visit. Costs per patient for the screening protocol were approximately 10Euro. Importantly, early detection and treatment of diabetes significantly reduces the risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients.

These findings mean that in at least eight out of every 100 patients who went to a dental practice and had the screening, diabetes or prediabetes was detected
David Herrera, chief researcher for the DiabetRisk Study and Professor at Complutense University of Madrid

“Given the relationship between gum disease and diabetes, dental clinics are an ideal place for the early detection of this metabolic disease as demonstrated by our findings. It’s also widely accepted that while many patients don’t visit their doctor very regularly, a large proportion of the population do visit their dentist, enhancing the role of dental practices as a key ally in promoting general health”

We are very pleased to be involved in the DiabetRisk study which has a number of important results and implications for dentists worldwide – and also demonstrates Sunstar’s longstanding commitment to promoting health and in preventing diabetes with dentists
Dr Marzia Massignani, head of Scientific Affairs at Sunstar

For over 30 years, Sunstar has been promoting and supporting research in the bi-directional relationship between oral health and diabetes. SUNSTAR’s founder, Kunio Kaneda, passed away due to a complication of diabetes in his fifties and, as early as 1986, during the SUNSTAR Portside Symposium, Hiroo Kaneda, Kunio’s son, raised the question of a possible link between periodontal disease and systemic diseases. This was the first step towards the recognition of the relationship between oral health and general health.