Diagnosing Diabetes in your Dentist's Office - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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Diagnosing Diabetes in your Dentist's Office

Want to know your risk for diabetes? How about heart disease? These days, some people are finding out -- not at their doctor's office, but in a *dental* chair.

Betty scott is in the dentist's chair, at the U-I-C Clinic. But before teeth cleaning, a finger prick to check blood sugar levels, and a check of her blood pressure.

And at 'his' dentist, Richard Mueller got a test that could indicate heart problems.

Dr. Ronald Schefdore does screening tests and says "Several of our patients had cancer diagnosed, diabetes, pre-diabetes, high heart attack risk and stroke."

Dr. Ronald schefdore often tests patients for cholesterol, diabetes, and c-reactive protein, or crp. It detects inflammation which is a potential symptom of heart disease. In fact, he markets these tests to other dentists.

It's a business venture: and he says a mission.  Dr. Schefdore says "We estimate that over two million people could be helped if dentists were to incorporate these tests in their office."

Dentists who buy this say they're not practicing medicine, they're offering an early warning system that serves as a safety net for patients and their doctors."

Many Americans who feel well will still go to the dentist, while putting off a doctor's visit.

Which is why gum infection, a symptom of diabetes may first be detected during a regular dental checkup.

Dr. Phil Marucha is a Periodontist who says "I think the most important thing is that we use the data to refer people at risk to their primary health care provider."

In the case of pregnant women for example, there's a strong connection between periodontal disease and pre-term labor.

According to Dr. Marucha, "We're trying to train dentists for the future, and so we see this to be the beginning of many tests that may be done chairside."

But diagnostics experts say while there are standards such as blood pressure and glucose checks, other tests are still in their infancy. Like the inflammation test. Does it show heart attack risk?

Dr. David Cochran, Periodontist, "We certainly can't say at this point in time that measuring something as general as c reactive protein is going to tell us that it will be diagnostic for any other chronic disease in the body."

For Richard, who's always been trim, and went to the dentist feeling great, the news from his blood tests shocked him. Richard says "That's when I found out I was a type two diabetic."

But he says if not for his dentist, he would never have gone to the doctor.  Richard says "maybe he did save my life, you know?"

Depending on who you go to, the tests can add hundreds of dollars to your dental bill. And it's not covered by insurance.