Screening for diabetes at the dentist

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Abdelkarim Aldasouqi died from complications of diabetes in 2008.

"He began losing one thing after the other. He lost his sight, he became blind, he lost his kidney function, he went into kidney failure," explained his son, Dr. Saleh Aldasouqi.

The MSU professor says those complications don't show up until about ten years of having the disease, which is why he's working to make sure people know their risk of diabetes earlier in their lives. Maybe from a trip to the dentist.

"About two-thirds of Americans would visit their dentist on an annual basis, but many of them would not visit their doctor, their regular doctor, because perhaps maybe they don't have any major illness," he said.

So, Aldasouqi teamed up with Holt Dentist Dr. Susan Maples. She created a survey that determines a patient's risk for diabetes, without having to weigh them.

"Is your waist circumfrence over 35 for women, over 40 for men? Do you consider yourself more than 10% over your ideal body weight?," she explained. "And then, there are more classic signs, like tingling of the hands and feet, inability to heal quickly."

It's also something she can notice in patients who have gum disease.

"The mouth is a real window to what's going on in the rest of the body," Dr. Maples said.

500 of her patients filled out the survey and had their blood tested from a finger prick. The results found 19% of them were pre-diabetic.

"That's very significant. And mind you, if we do the survey on other populations, perhaps we might find higher percentage," Dr. Aldasouqi said.

Because the CDC predicts by 2050, one in three American adults will be diabetic, but a quarter of them won't know it.

The screening is not available at all dentists' offices, but the doctors are working to expand the study.