Through a lifetime, saliva proves to be integral for the breakdown and digestion of foods that are consumed. This watery liquid keeps the mouth moist and comfortable, while fighting germs in the mouth. Because of its proteins and minerals, teeth, specifically tooth enamel, is fortified and protected from tooth decay. Saliva has had a consistent function in the maintenance of good oral health, but researchers are now finding that it may have a significant role in revealing systemic diseases.
A group at the University of California Los Angeles School of Dentistry has been looking at biological markers derived from saliva that could potential test for the presence of stomach cancer and other deadly diseases. Dr. David Wong, the head of this five-year project, has high hopes of detecting cancer cells through capturing extracellular RNA, an important player in the production of proteins. The researchers hope to develop a method for using saliva to detect life-threatening diseases, such as pancreatic, breast and ovarian cancers. Currently, Dr. Wong’s team initially disordered salivary extracellular molecules and have strong evidence for detecting oral cancer with the biological markers they have created. The team also has successfully developed salivary extracellular RNA biomarkers for diseases such as salivary gland tumors and Sjögren’s syndrome.
While this research team continues to look for ways to genetically screen for these cancers, dentists have been able to start the process in detecting these systemic diseases during an oral exam. The initial symptoms of many diseases appear in the mouth. Diabetes, for example, is a complex disease that surprisingly shows many symptoms in the oral cavity. Thrush is an oral infection in the mouth that thrives when there are increased levels of blood glucose found in the saliva, which is an indication of diabetes. Dry mouth is another indicator of this disease, decreasing the production of saliva, leading to mouth soreness and tooth decay. Diabetes also increases the time for wound healing, which can be observed after an invasive dental procedure. Saliva and the oral cavity as a whole continue to reveal much about an individual’s oral health simply through a check up. It is crucial to consistently make appointments with the dentist both to ensure good oral health and to screen for signs of systemic disease. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact Drs. Ali & Ali and the caring team at Wellesley Dental Group; they will be happy to answer your questions! Contact us today at 781-237-9071 or email@example.com
Mealey, B. 2000. Diabetes and periodontal disease. Journal of Periodontology 71(4):664-678.