The Oral-Systemic Connection:
Salivary Testing for Systemic Diagnoses
Oral health is essential to overall health, and dentistry can partner with the medical community to help patients achieve positive health outcomes, including disease prevention. Now, in-office saliva testing for HIV, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and various forms of cancer offers dental professionals a new way to integrate potentially life-saving preventive care into routine dental treatment.*
Widely used to detect oral disease (including periodontal disease and caries risk), salivary diagnostics are now proving their potential to detect systemic disease and reveal new information about oral-systemic health.1 Supporting this development are technological advances that break down barriers to widespread salivary testing such as low speed and poor sensitivity and functionality. For example, with some new technologies, the clinician can screen for disease using only a small amount of bodily fluid and measure in saliva many things one can measure in blood.
As a research tool, saliva may tell us more about our health than we once believed. As a clinical tool, it is compelling because it meets a demand for:
Noninvasive screening, reducing patient anxiety and discomfort and simplifying the process of repeat sampling.
Quick, easy and inexpensive methods, creating opportunities for more widespread use and making it possible to diagnose disease even in remote or impoverished settings.
Ease of collection, storage and shipping, representing some advantages of saliva over serum.
Fewer procedural manipulations, made possible because saliva does not clot.
In a January 2010 survey from the American Dental Association, 87.7 percent of 1,900 dentists surveyed said they would be willing to perform salivary diagnostics.2 With this level of support and enthusiasm, the goal of Healthy People 2020 could be achievable — that is, to bring preventive interventions in a dental setting to a greater number of adults, including screenings for oral and pharyngeal cancer and tests or referrals for glycemic control.
*Screening services may not be covered under EmblemHealth and GHI dental plans. Related ADA CDT codes are as follows: collection and preparation of saliva sample for laboratory diagnostic testing (D0417) and analysis of saliva sample (D0418).