Identification of diabetes risk in dental settings: Implications for physical and mental health

Mary T. Rosedale, Shiela M. Strauss, Navjot Kaur, Ann Danoff, Dolores Malaspina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The risk for diabetes is significantly elevated in persons who are older, overweight, and have serious mental illness. However, primary care practitioners (PCP) tend to underestimate this risk. Although there are few opportunities for early detection of diabetes, blood exuded during routine oral exams in dental settings can be used to assess glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels. The current study sought to understand how primary care practitioners would react to patients who screened positive for elevated HbA1c, how they estimated risk, and whether they provided treatment recommendations or counseling. Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted on 61 subjects three months after demonstrating elevated HbA1c levels from dental screenings. Data were transcribed and analyzed using content analysis. Qualitative analyses revealed the following four themes according to patients: (1) “Being told I needed to make lifestyle changes” (41%); (2) Realizing I needed a new health care provider or medication change” (10%); (3) “Being told of the need for monitoring but no counseling/treatment change” (16%); and (4) “Being told everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about” (31%). Only half of the 61 cases reporting elevated HbA1c levels at screening experienced their PCP’s as responding with counseling or medication changes. Almost a third of cases perceived that their PCP’s dismissed the results, making no recommendations, and the rest perceived no counseling or interventions being proposed. Based on subjects’ perceptions of their PCP’s responses to their elevated HbA1c values, the impact of this intervention is substantially reduced over expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-73
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • Blood
  • dentist
  • diabetes
  • oral screening
  • psychiatric
  • risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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