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Understanding Diabetes & Gum Disease


Dr. Gary Hack wears an insulin pump and a glucose monitor at all times to manage his Type 1 Diabetes. He’s had this condition for 30 years.

“I understand how hard it is to deal with this disease,” he said.

He’s, also, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. He works with future dentists to assist patients affected by the disease.


Second-year dental students learn how to measure blood glucose levels of patients, when appropriate, by using a blood glucose meter.

The test is offered to patients who have risk factors such as obesity or a family history of the disease. Students refer patients to medical colleagues at the university or their primary care providers. The program is supported by the Maryland Office of Oral Health by providing the glucometers.

Many students see the training as a big part of their dental education.

“Diabetes is a public health epidemic requiring all health care professionals to be on board,” said Alexandra Fitzgerald, president of the dental school’s chapter of the American Student Dental Association.

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Dr. Hack said, the importance of dentists’ awareness of diabetes has only increased since the start of the pilot program in 2017.

“Every year, the numbers go up for this condition,” he said. “The association between gum disease and diabetes continues to increase and the number of people suffering goes up.”

Nearly half of all Americans have the disease or are high risk for developing prediabetes. According to the CDC, 86 million people have prediabetes, and almost 90% of the 86 million people don’t know they have it!

“Every year, the numbers go up for this condition. The evidence that there’s an association between gum disease and diabetes continues to increase and the number of people suffering goes up.”

Dr. Gary Hack, DDS

Diabetes Screening

Dr. Hack is a consultant to the American Diabetes Association. They included “Screening in Dental Practices” in Standards of Medical Care in the Diabetes 2017 document.

It states, “The use of screening and referrals to primary care improves the diagnosis of prediabetes and diabetes. Further research is needed to show the value, effectiveness, and cost of screening in this setting.”

For Dr. Hack, screening at-risk dental patients can’t come soon enough. He emphasizes diagnosing diabetes is “outside of our scope of practice, but screening and referring appropriately is needed now.”

“Dentists can play a critical role and slow the spread of the disease,” he said.

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The ADA Science Institute has information about diabetes on its Oral Health Topics website, so visit ADA.org for more information.


Next Steps

If you have any questions about the article or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Charletta at (301) 856-1200.

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