Does the dentist have a role in identifying patients with undiagnosed diabetes mellitus?


This paper provides a literature review of the role of the dentist in screening patients for undiagnosed diabetes in the dental clinic. It highlights both dentist and patient attitudes towards such screening methods.


Statement of the problem: Diabetes has become an epidemic and the incidence of undiagnosed diabetes is growing at an alarming rate. Diabetes is an associated risk factor for chronic periodontitis and has several other oral symptoms including dry mouth and oral infection. Expanding the role of the dentist may prove to be an efficient method of early detection and management of diabetes.
Purpose of the study: The aim of this paper is to critically analyse the literature and determine whether screening for undiagnosed diabetes mellitus is within the dentist’s scope of practice.
Materials and methods: A PubMed/Google Scholar/Google literature search was conducted of papers published in the English language in the years 1980-2013. Over 140 articles were examined. Reference lists of key articles were also sourced and analysed. The most pertinent articles are presented in this review.
Results: Screening for diabetes mellitus in the dental office should only be carried out for high-risk patients in order for such screenings to be cost-effective.
Conclusions: Dentists have an ethical obligation and a duty of care to protect the well-being of their patients. A screening procedure to detect a serious underlying, undiagnosed systemic condition does not cause any harm to the patient and is in the patient’s best interests.

Journal of the Irish Dental Association 2014/2015; 60 (6): 298-303