Dentists to Get New Guidance on How to Spot Illnesses in Patients’ Gums

Dentists to get new guidance on how to spot illnesses such as diabetes in patients from the state of their gums.


Dr. PJ Byrne, the new President of the Irish Dental Association, said there is new system that allows dentists to risk profile patients.

“Dentists see patients with pre-diabetic conditions, often unknowingly, on a regular basis. In many cases, this is manifested in poorly controlled periodontal (gum) conditions.

“They point out the danger signs to the patient and advise patients to follow it up with their GP. It is often many years later that the patient attends again, having been diagnosed with diabetes,” he told the organisation annual meeting in Galway.

Type 2 diabetes and obesity are “ticking health bombs” and dentists could play a key role in improving general health by identifying common risk factors and reducing the impact of these diseases.

Around 500 dentists who are attending the conference were told the guidance and questionnaire would be sent to clinics all over the country in a matter of months.

Dr. Byrne added: “Previously, research was lacking and dentists weren’t sure about the links between chronic diseases that are inflammation-based such as lung disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease and gum disease.

“Now, through extensive research, we know the links are there. When dentists are carrying out their examinations, they can see very often the early warning signs in the gum condition. Gum disease shares many common risk factors with diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” he added.

They would like to meet with doctors to discuss how they could both work better together on behalf of our patients.

He added: “If a patient suffers from arthritis or other chronic inflammation-based diseases, it is very likely they may also have gum disease. An integrated treatment programme, which addresses chronic diseases such as diabetes or other inflammation-based chronic conditions and gum disease, will lead to better outcomes for the patient.”

It is important to recognise that by risk profiling our patients in terms of gum disease, the patient may present with multiple risk factors such as smoking, stress and obesity, etc., which add to the risk of gum disease. The presence of gum disease may also make it more difficult to control many medical conditions especially diabetes.

Professor Bob Genco, a leading American authority on the links between gum disease and chronic disease, told the conference there was a compelling argument for proactive common risk factor management by dental professionals.

He said when this happens, it can result in better general health, as well as better oral health. – Eilish ORegan