The State of Salivary Diagnostics

Author: Dylan McCarthy
Dylan McCarthy

Dylan McCarthy

Dylan McCarthy is the lead editor at The Dental Geek. He grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, and graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in English. In his free time Dylan enjoys writing novels and short stories, body surfing and playing the air guitar while listening to music. Follow him on Twitter @ItsTheDMc.
01.31.18 / 10:57 am

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At the core of the dental profession is the desire to better the oral health, and by extension the overall health, of all patients. As time passes and technology continues to advance, dental professionals have discovered better, more accurate, and more efficient means of diagnosing and treating their patients thereby elevating the standard of care.

One such advancement in dental treatment that’s seen a lot of discussion as of late is salivary diagnostics and its role as a rapid point-of-care tool for the prevention and treatment of diseases. A statement from the American Dental Association emphasizes the importance of furthering the research and use of salivary diagnostics in the profession. Specifically the ADA “recognizes the importance of continued research in oral fluid diagnostics, and welcomes the development of rapid, point-of-care tests that provide accurate measurements of clinically validated biomarkers… Advances in the science of oral fluid diagnostics may lead to identification of disease signature patterns of candidate biomarkers and/or confirmation of genetic susceptibility to some conditions.”

While blood has been the go-to medium for diagnosing the majority of diseases for a long time now, an article from DentistryIQ highlights that many of the same biomarkers found in blood are also available in saliva but in much smaller quantities. “Biomarkers in the blood are commonly measured in micrograms, which are one millionths of a gram. Biomarkers in saliva are commonly measured in picograms, one trillionth of a gram, or nanogram quantities, one billionth of a gram. Technology is now at a point where those minute quantities are readily detectable using a number of methodologies…” In the past the limits of technology made salivary diagnostics an impossibility, but in the near future salivary diagnostic tools could become available to all dental professionals.

A specific application of salivary diagnostics in dentistry could be the early diagnosis of periodontitis. Today the traditional approach to diagnosing periodontal diseases consists of measuring periodontal pocket depth and associated bone loss by manual probing of the gingival sulcus mixed with visual examination from a dental professional and radiographic imaging. Ultimately, this approach can leave dental professionals with limited information on disease classification and treatment planning.

In Salivary Diagnostics: the Future of Precision Dental Medicine, an article from Colgate’s site dedicated to the future of oral health, salivary diagnostics’ role in the diagnosis of periodontal disease looks bright: “By virtue of science and research, there is much we know about periodontal disease… the oral health community also knows that there is a variety of salivary biomarkers that can be used to predict disease progression. Now, despite there not being a solitary biomarker as of yet, we are aware of several combinations [such as matrix-related mediators, inflammatory mediators, and microbial mediators] that cater to the multidimensional pathology of the disease and help to identify the patient’s oral health status of his/her dentition.”

These are just a few insights into the evolving world of salivary diagnostics, what are your thoughts on its role in dentistry? Let us know in the comments!

Dylan McCarthy

Dylan McCarthy

Dylan McCarthy is the lead editor at The Dental Geek. He grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, and graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in English. In his free time Dylan enjoys writing novels and short stories, body surfing and playing the air guitar while listening to music. Follow him on Twitter @ItsTheDMc.

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