Diagnose Gum Disease

New color strips enhance early detection.

Charles W Martin By Charles W Martin, DDS
Founder, DentistryForDiabetics.com

Color is a key component in our lives. We're told to "eat our leafy greens" for better health. We look at the color of a fruit to gauge its ripeness. And we may look at a friend and ask about their health, because they're "looking a little pale." Not only do we react to color, we rely on it to help us judge the world around us.

Now color may help us detect gum disease quickly and easily – and at an early stage – making it quicker and easier for those of us in the dental field to screen for gum disease. This will help us get patients started on treatment earlier and help us benchmark the progress patients are making in treatment.

Researchers from Temple University's Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry earlier this year announced the discovery of a color strip that helped to diagnose gum disease among a test group of 73 patients in three groups: those with healthy gums; those with gingivitis, which is characterized by gums that bleed; and those with periodontitis, which involves gums that bleed and that have started to recede. People with gum disease have microbial sulfur compounds in their saliva. The test strips change from white to yellow depending on the amount of microbial sulfur found in the patient's mouth. The more severe the gum disease, the greater the amount of microbial sulfur found in the saliva. The more microbial sulfur, the darker yellow the strip will turn.

Strips compared with traditional diagnostic methods
Researchers tested the color strips on each of the three groups of dental patients and scored the strips based on a color chart. They then tested each subject using traditional clinical methods for evaluating gum disease: plaque index, gingival index, attachment levels, and bleeding of the gums when probed.

The result was that the scores found using traditional methods and the scores determined by the color strip testing were comparable. That could mean a quick, easy test to diagnose gum disease that indicates its development at very early stages. And like any disease that's caught at an early stage, gum disease is then much easier to treat.

Treating gum disease is key to reducing oral inflammation and removing the factor that triggers the body's inflammatory response. Anything we can do to reduce inflammation is desirable as researchers continue to link inflammation to a list of serious, debilitating, and often fatal diseases. If you haven't checked out my column Links Between Diabetes & Gum Disease – The Inflammation Response, I urge you to do so. There, we talk in some detail about how what's going on in your mouth affects your diabetes management and how it's related to inflammation.

Easier diagnosis of gum disease is especially important for people who have diabetes because treatment of gum disease is also a big factor in managing blood sugar levels. Gum disease is also linked to heart disease and heart attacks, blood infection, low-birth weight babies, several kinds of cancer, and obesity. Finding and treating it at early stages can help you live a healthier, more comfortable life.

For more information about dental care for people who have diabetes, visit http://www.dentistryfordiabetics.com and Dr. Martin's blog, http://www.dentistryfordiabetics.com/blog.

To learn more about the two-way connection between diabetes and gum disease, check out the other columns here on dLife or Dr. Martin's book, Don't Sugar Coat It.

Read Dr. Charles Martin's bio here.

Read more of Dr. Martin's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition. 

Last Modified Date: July 01, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...
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