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We all know that there are good bacteria, and bad bacteria, and you want to make sure your mouth, and your gut, are filled with as much “good bacteria” as possible, and as little “bad” bacteria as possible. But do you ever wonder which microbes (and how many of them) are actually in your mouth? And why does this have an impact on your overall health? And why do some people never pick up a piece of floss in their lifetime, and they will only get mild gingivitis, but others skip one cleaning with their hygienist, and end up with more serious periodontitis? (hint, genetics and mouth bacteria come to play!)

One innovation that is gaining prominence in the field of dentistry is salivary testing. This non-invasive, convenient, and relatively inexpensive test, is helpful for customizing your treatment plan. Salivary testing involves about 30 minutes of “prep” (which essentially is not eating or brushing for 30 minutes before your appointment), and then coming to the office for a swish/spit type test. The tests are approximately $250, and take about 1 week to get results.

Understanding Salivary Testing:

Why do we want to know what’s in your saliva? The microbes in the saliva contain a wealth of information about your overall health and well-being.  Salivary testing can help with the following:

  • IDENTIFY PATHOGENS: Finding hidden oral pathogens that threaten your oral and systemic health. Common pathogens (bad bacteria) that directly cause gum disease, and may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and birth complications.
  • INFLAMMATORY RISK FACTORS: Learn if you were born with gene markers associated with increased risk for inflammation (which is one of the genetic components of gum disease), and can also put you at higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • PERSONALIZED TREATMENT PLANS: Provides helpful information to work with your hygienist and dentist to select the most effective treatment if you already have periodontal disease, and then measure the treatment results with a follow up test.

Comparisons have been made between getting blood work done and seeing your physician, and having salivary testing done and seeing your dentist. Although it is not necessary for all patients to have salivary testing done, patients who might benefit are the following:

  • Patients with Periodontal Disease: Salivary testing can be used to assess the presence of specific bacteria associated with periodontal disease, helping in treatment planning and monitoring
  • Patients who have completed periodontal therapy, and have little improvement in pocket measurements. Occasionally antibiotics are needed to control more severe types of periodontal disease.
  • Patients who want to know more about their genetic risks for periodontal disease, so that they can take a more proactive approach to preventive care
  • Patients considering becoming pregnant, or pregnant patients concerned about their oral health. Fusobacterium nucleatum (Fn) is associated with higher risks of maternal hypertension, premature delivery and some other complications.
  • Patients with GI disorders. Fusobacterium nucleatum (Fn) is also associated with inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.
  • Patients with bad breath. Although there can be other factors at play for bad breath (like diet or other illnesses), one of the major causes of halitosis is bacteria that produce sulphur containing chemicals. Lowering the levels of bacteria like Treponema denticola (Td) and Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) and Prevotella intermedia (Pi) will lessen the causes of bad breath.
  • Patients with high risk of cardiovascular disease. Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg) has been not only linked to heart attacks but is also suspected to be one of the causes of the occlusion of the arteries around the heart. Mouth bacteria literally travels in the blood stream and can cause serious adverse cardiac events.

In conclusion, as dentistry continues to embrace technology, salivary testing is emerging as a valuable tool for enhancing diagnostic capabilities and improving patients’ oral health outcomes. The ability to gain detailed insights into a patient’s oral health through simple, affordable saliva samples empowers patients, dentists and dental hygienists to develop more personalized and effective treatment plans. Ultimately salivary testing will contribute to overall better periodontal health, and in many cases, overall general health.

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Excellent practice! I would definitely recommend them and have!
—Brett B.
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