Saliva has long been considered a “mirror of the body” that reflects the state of overall health. A wide range of systemic diseases, such as diabetes and Sjögren’s syndrome, have oral manifestations that dentists can encounter in patients at various stages of disease development. Dentists are therefore ideally situated to monitor and treat oral disease progression, impaired salivary status, and various oral complications associated with systemic conditions.
In recent years, sparked by initiatives from the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), saliva has attracted widespread interest as a diagnostic medium for rapid, point-of-care testing. The advantages of using saliva for disease diagnostics include ease of access, noninvasive sample collection, increased acceptance by patients, and reduced risks of infectious disease transmission. Oral samples are readily accessible as whole saliva or by sampling secretions from specific glands or gingival crevicular fluid.
Advances in the science of salivary diagnostics will lead to identification of disease signatures of candidate biomarkers and/or confirmation of genetic susceptibility for systemic conditions. With the development of the salivary proteome, transcriptome, micro-RNA, metabolome and microbiome as diagnostics alphabets fully enable saliva to be translated for personalized individual medicine applications. Coupled with the development of point-of-care technologies and the emerging trend of dentists chairside screening for medical conditions, dentistry will advance into primary healthcare to screen and risk assess high impact medical conditions.
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