Salivary diagnostics: The stuff of science fiction is reality in scientific research and development

Determining the presence of diseases and conditions by salivary diagnostics is not limited to those in the oral cavity. It also extends to systemic pathologies such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, along with viral and bacterial infections. What does this mean for dental professionals in terms of salivary sample requests for real-time determination of the presence of various systemic diseases? In his DentistryIQ blog, “Making the Oral-Systemic Connection,” Richard H. Nagelberg, DDS, discusses the progress of salivary diagnostics in scientific research and development and explains how it will directly enhance the health of our patients.

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Determining the presence of diseases and conditions by salivary diagnostics is not limited to those in the oral cavity. It also extends to systemic pathologies such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, along with viral and bacterial infections.

What does this mean for dental professionals? Will we be called upon by physicians to provide salivary samples to determine the presence of a variety of cancers and systemic diseases? Will there be a saliva sample request for real-time determination of a patient’s overall physiological condition?

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Perhaps the presence, somewhere other than the oral cavity, of a viral or bacterial infection will need to be identified. Think of the implications salivary identification of infection can have for diabetic patients. Infections wreak havoc on glycemic control.

The time when we determine the presence of diabetes by gingival bleeding or salivary testing is coming sooner rather than later. Salivary identification of infection could provide critical information for the physician who is struggling to obtain good glycemic control in a diabetic patient. How relevant would information such as this be for dental professionals?

One scenario would be a diabetic patient without periodontal disease. If the patient develops gingivitis, salivary testing for infection other than in the oral cavity could be extremely important, potentially alerting us to intervene prior to the development of periodontitis, which is noncurable. If that happens, the patient would then have two chronic, noncurable conditions to manage for life. There are many other scenarios in which salivary identification of infection could be critical for enhancing the health of our patients.

The stuff of science fiction only a short time ago is reality now in scientific research and development settings. It won’t be long until these devices and technologies are available. Let’s always keep in mind that the primary beneficiaries of these advances are our patients.

READ MORE OF DR. NAGELBERG’S BLOGS . . .

Richard H. Nagelberg, DDS, has practiced general dentistry in suburban Philadelphia for more than 30 years. He is a speaker, advisory board member, consultant, and key opinion leader for several dental companies and organizations. He lectures on a variety of topics centered on understanding the impact dental professionals have beyond the oral cavity. Contact Dr. Nagelberg at gr82th@aol.com.


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