Saliva as a Diagnostic Tool for Periodontal Disease

A University of Kentucky research study could help change the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease.

An article, “Salivary Biomarkers of Existing Periodontal Disease,” discusses the importance of saliva and its potential to be a diagnostic tool.

The study was conducted by a team of UK researchers to determine if saliva could be tested for signs of periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection affecting millions of Americans characterized by persistent inflammation, connective tissue breakdown and alveolar bone destruction. Results showed that saliva could be a significant component in diagnosing and monitoring periodontal disease.

“Our research team has been working on methods and point-of-care devices that could allow saliva to be used as a diagnostic fluid,” said Craig Miller, primary investigator and professor of oral medicine at UK. “Our initial emphasis is on the identification of biomarkers in saliva that will allow us to diagnose periodontal disease. We have made great strides in doing just that, as evident by our recent data published in JADA.”

“This could impact the practice of dentistry and medicine in the very near future, as health care practitioners use saliva, possibly instead of blood, to diagnose and monitor oral and systemic health. With time and continued research funding, we are hoping to realize portable devices that can diagnose a wide variety of disease conditions using saliva,” Said Dr. Miller.

In the March issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, which was devoted to studies on the salivary glands, two feature stories and two editorials evaluated the future of saliva as a diagnostics tool. The second feature story was a study from the University of California – Los Angeles, which examines markers in saliva of patients that are correlated with oral cancer.

“Point of Care diagnostics is the holy grail for the health care in the 21st century,” said Daniel Malamud, professor at New York University, in his guest editorial, “Salivary Diagnostics: the Future is Now,” also appearing in the March issue of JADA. “Within the discipline of POC diagnostics the use of saliva and other oral samples as the source of biomarkers is particularly appealing since their collection is relatively noninvasive and well-tolerated by the patient.”

The authors of the UK study include: Miller, Mark Thomas, associate professor and chair, department of Oral Health Practice, UK College of Dentistry; Charles King, a periodontist in private practice in South Carolina; Chris Langub, scientific review administrator, office of public health research, Center for Disease Control and Prevention; and Richard Kryscio, UK professor of statistics and biostatistics

From University of Kentucky press release

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