What Can Be Detected In A Saliva Test?
Saliva is a very complex secretion, the analysis of which is a modern diagnostic method with many medical and scientific possibilities, also in the case of coronavirus detection. With the flu season in the making, and the coronavirus still present, the test is a timely method to find out if you are infected with COVID or another virus.
And, to do it in the simplest way, you can use the analysis of saliva, a fluid that contains a lot of information. This article tells you more about this secretion, such as its composition and functions, what problems it causes for those who suffer from its excess or lack of, and what other diseases can be detected.
Saliva: What It Is, How It Is Produced, And What It Is Used For?
Saliva is a very complex secretion originating fundamentally (93%) from the major salivary glands (submandibular, sublingual, and parotid glands). Most of it (99%) is water, while the remaining 1% is made up of minerals, organic molecules, and amylase, an enzyme that is very important for digesting food.
Saliva is continually being generated in our mouth, but it is before meals, during, and after when the greatest volume is produced. On the contrary, at night, during sleep, its production is greatly reduced.
But in addition to the time of day, there are other causes that alter the amount of salivary secretion: age, number of teeth, sex, body weight, certain medications, diseases (Sjögren’s syndrome, depression, diabetes, hypertension…), vital periods such as dental eruption, pregnancy or menstruation.
While the amount of saliva is important, so is its quality. The ideal saliva is one that is produced in normal amounts (between 500-700 ml daily), continuously, increasing at meal times, which has a normal fluidity (not too thick), that it has a good buffer response (that is, that it is capable of counteracting the acids produced in the mouth) and that it contains few pathogenic bacteria and, on the contrary, many ‘friendly’ bacteria”.
What is saliva for? In addition to the basic functions of lubrication and hygiene, Castro explains that, among others, it has antimicrobial functions (thanks to immunoglobulins), maintains the integrity of the oral mucosa, has the demineralizing capacity, neutralizes the formation of acids in the oral cavity and prepares food for swallowing and digestion. And cure? “Through its antimicrobial action and maintenance of the mucous membranes, it is an essential element in the healing of certain oral wounds”, points out the expert.
I Have Little Saliva, Should I Worry?
The decrease in the amount of saliva (hyposalivation) can become a very annoying health problem. This is what is known as xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome. There are many causes that can cause it: stress, certain medications, head, and neck radiotherapy, and various diseases (autoimmune, diabetes, depression, hypertension, etc.).
And there are not a few problems that the reduction in saliva production can cause: more risk of caries, the mouth being more vulnerable to certain bacteria, increased bad breath, increased risk of periodontal diseases, and, in some cases, dryness of the mucous membranes, pain.
➡️ To prevent these complications, Sportstodo recommends stimulating saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum, improving oral flora using alcohol-free mouthwashes, and drinking water in small sips very frequently to rehydrate the mouth. But he also insists that it is important to consult a dentist because certain drugs or the use of artificial saliva may be indicated in certain patients.
Excess Saliva, Is It Harmful?
Unlike the decrease in saliva, the increase in its production ( hypersaline ) is not associated with oral problems, but it does affect the mouth: drooling, the need to spit and swallow all the time, bad taste, chapped lips, and even alternation speech. In addition, it can even generate psychological complications and social anxiety.
Physiologically and normally, hypersalivation occurs during the dental eruption (especially in the smallest), in the first half of pregnancy, and during menstruation, as well as in the first days after the placement of a prosthesis. And there are other pathological causes that produce increased saliva: Parkinson’s, epilepsy, some tumors, certain medications, and some intoxications (mercury, lead, arsenic).
➡️ Treatment will depend on the causes. And the preventive guidelines to avoid excessive salivation include a diet free of acidic or starchy foods, dental hygiene, sleeping the necessary hours, drinking water in small sips, and chewing gum or sucking on sugar-free candies.
But what do we do with the babies? As hypersalivation is very common in them when the primary teeth erupt, they may suffer from irritation of the skin surrounding the mouth and chin. “Excess saliva should be dried and consult with the pediatrician about the use of possible dermatological creams,” advises Castro.
Saliva Analysis, What Diseases Does It Detect?
Saliva analysis is a modern diagnostic method with many medical and scientific possibilities. Some researchers point out that it could be used to diagnose diseases such as cancer or diabetes in their early stages, as well as to detect neurological disorders, such as autism, and autoimmune diseases.
Some even talk that it could unseat the blood test. “The technological advances that have been made and continue to be made allow us to be very optimistic regarding the use of saliva, both as a diagnostic method and to evaluate the evolution of certain circumstances or pathologies,” says the president of the General Council of Dentists.
Quick, simple, non-invasive, painless, and easy-to-use tests are the main characteristics of this detection system. What must be taken into account to do it? As pointed out by the Galicia Sur Research Institute:
- Before collecting the sample, the patient cannot brush their teeth, eat, drink, rinse their mouth or chew gum.
- Saliva production occurs by moving the tongue as if sucking on candy.
- It is not recommended to clear your throat, to avoid mucus.
- You have to deposit the saliva in the container little by little.
- This analysis is very useful for dentists. It helps determine the risk of caries or periodontal disease, for example.
But, in the field of general health, saliva is used to diagnose diseases such as celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and certain tumor markers. It is also very useful in determining bacterial infections (the well-known Helicobacter pylori and its relation to gastroduodenal ulcer) and viral infections (hepatitis, HIV).
Of course, this method is common for detecting certain substances, such as drugs, ethanol, and hormones. Also, as a genetic test, a saliva DNA test is used to determine the paternity and relationship of people. And according to this study, even by means of a saliva analysis, the levels of the stress hormone can be measured.
Saliva Test To Detect Coronavirus
A test with a saliva sample can also detect the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus just as efficiently as one obtained from the oropharynx.
The self-diagnostic tests with which you can take the test at home without the need for health personnel have been a breakthrough since the pandemic began. In a very simple way, in less than 15 minutes you can know or rule out whether or not you have been infected with the coronavirus.
Carrying out the test is very simple: the box contains the collection instructions and a small container where the patient can deposit the saliva, after having kept a 30-minute micro fast. The liquid that will act as a reagent is also included. After collecting the sample, it is mixed with the reagent, and two drops are poured into a blister where it will be indicated -in 15 minutes- if you test positive or negative for COVID.