Dentists have a powerful new tool to help guide patients toward optimal oral and total health. A simple saline rinse test measures identifies and confirms both the risk and presence of bacterial pathogens that increase the patients risk for tooth decay and gum disease, as well as many negative factors that can affect the overall patient’s health.

Salivary Tests for Oral and Integrated Care

There are numerous salivary diagnostic tests available. The most widely used test is from OralDNA Labs called MyPerioPath. Thousands of healthcare professionals use this test for early identification of the 11 harmful bacteria that trigger inflammation and gum disease, and to aid in the personalization of treatment.

Once the test reveals which pathogens are contributing to the patient’s periodontal disease, it also offers antibiotic recommendations that target these specific bacteria.

When combined with periodontal maintenance visits and patient homecare, this test can lower a patient’s bacterial load, thus increasing positive outcomes. Retesting has shown that this reduction in bacteria can have a dramatic effect. We’ve seen tough cases—patients who were compliant with homecare but still exhibited clinical signs of periodontal disease—that improved dramatically after being treated with the test’s recommended systemic antibiotic. Periodic monitoring with MyPerioPath combined with periodontal maintenance treatment can help keep patients’ oral health stable.

Genetic predisposition

In addition to bacterial profile testing, various tests from OralDNA labs can tell us a patient’s genetic predisposition toward inflammation. This can reveal one of the reasons why some patients continue to experience periodontal destruction after treatment despite compliance and lower quantities of periodontal pathogens. In addition, much of the research connecting oral health to systemic conditions reveals that it is a patient’s total inflammatory burden that puts someone at risk for a host of health problems.

While the patient’s genetic profile cannot be changed, the knowledge that the person has an overactive inflammatory response can help the practitioner and patient understand that there is a need for more frequent continuing care, adjunctive therapies, or treatment with a periodontist. This information can also help patients manage and control their systemic health with the help of their physician.

Oral cancer screening

Finally, salivary diagnostics can also test for the presence of various human papillomavirus (HPV) strains that have been shown to cause oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, oral cancer will take the lives of 10,860 people this year. HPV is now seen as the leading cause, and the rate is increasing at 11 new cases per 100,000 people per year.

Early diagnosis is key and increases survival from a dismal 20% when discovered after it has metastasized to distant sites, to 93% when discovered early.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults have periodontal disease. These bacteria, especially at high levels, and in combination with an individual’s genetic inflammatory response, result in bad breath, painful, bleeding gums, loss of bone and eventually tooth loss. But the consequences of these same bacteria, present for years and decades, add significantly to the risk of wide range of life- threatening diseases beyond the mouth.

Oral pathogens that cause periodontal disease have been shown to directly cause, or be linked to, an increase in cardiovascular risk, along with other systemic health issues such as cancer, diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, stroke and birth complications, and dementia. Dental offices are increasingly on the front line in managing this risk.

Knowing a patient’s HPV status may prompt us to increase the frequency of someone’s oral cancer screenings, or to use adjunctive diagnostic tools such as oral anomaly detection devices to more closely monitor the patient and potentially catch the cancer at an earlier stage.

More and more research studies are correlating the various bacteria that cause periodontal disease to systemic conditions. The more we understand about a patient’s bacterial load and risk factors, the better equipped we can be to help manage periodontal disease and improve overall health. Salivary diagnostics can help us provide optimal care for patients, increasing our ability to provide them with positive outcomes through tailored treatment and patient education.

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