What Your Saliva Says About You

***UPDATED: August 5, 2016*** Researchers have discovered that a small amount of saliva can provide a great amount of information, including stress level, DNA and the prevalence of some diseases. The Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research, located at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), is dedicated to finding out just what saliva can tell us and how we can use the valuable information. While saliva tests will never fully replace blood tests, Dr. Douglas Granger, institute director, believes that saliva is the diagnostic fluid of the future, according to a recent article from the Dental Tribune. Saliva testing is easy, pain-free and can be used in many nontraditional settings. Currently, salivary diagnostic tests are being used in some hormonal screens, HIV, and alcohol tests. Researchers are currently working to develop screenings that could allow for early detection of some types of cancers, such as colorectal and oral cancer, and conditions such as heart and Alzheimer’s disease.

Everybody has it, and on average your body produces about 50 ounces of it a day. And while it helps maintain your health, it also provides insights to other things that are going on in your body. I’m talking about saliva. Yes, that natural mouth disinfectant that occupies your face. According to Kimberly Harms, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, “it helps maintain the health of your gums, prevent tooth decay, and wash away food particles, and it provides disease-fighting substances to prevent cavities and other infections.” You probably don’t concentrate intently on your spit, but you might want to once you find out just how much it can determine. Here’s a list of seven things your saliva says about you, as recently reported in a Fox News article.

  1. If you seem to be producing less saliva, you might have your meds to blame. “Over 300 medications, like decongestants and antihistamines, cause dry mouth as a side effect,” claims Harms. Older individuals often experience dry mouth as health concerns lead to more medication. Be extra vigilant about your dental hygiene if you notice this happening. Floss daily, brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and see your dentist regularly.
  2. If you notice that your saliva is white and clumpy, you may have an oral infection. While rare in healthy adults, the candida albicans fungus can cause “thrush,” or a yeast infection in your mouth. Diabetics are more susceptible to this condition because sugars in your saliva can lead to yeast growth. Your doctor can prescribe an antifungal medication that can help.
  3. Saliva tests can provide a lot of information about your genetic makeup and hormones. There have recently been many promising breakthroughs in the use of saliva as a diagnostic tool for many diseases, including diabetes and cancer. Early detection is often critical with many serious health conditions, making a saliva test an important weapon in the battle for your health.
  4. If your saliva becomes too acidic, bacteria can multiply in your mouth, eroding your teeth and causing cavities. While you can’t really taste a difference, your dentist can easily find out if the pH is off in your saliva.
  5. If you find that you’re producing too much saliva (and you’re a woman), you might be pregnant. Research shows that expectant mothers produce more saliva due to changing hormones, or as a side effect of feeling nauseated. There aren’t really any negative side effects, but chewing gum or hard candy might help you swallow the extra.
  6. Sometimes your spit may be a little bitter or sour. If that’s the case, you might have reflux. This health condition allows stomach acid to bubble up into your throat. Aside from the taste, other common symptoms of reflux include heartburn, bad breath and nausea. If you have reflux, your doctor will likely advise that yo make some lifestyle changes, like avoiding greasy and spicy foods and losing a few pounds.
  7. If you are a mouth breather, you might find that your saliva tastes “tacky” on your tongue. Besides the fact that nose breathing is the best way to keep your mouth hydrated, mouth breathing can also point to other health issues, such as sleep apnea. It’s important to mention mouth breathing to your dentist or doctor, if you think it’s a problem you might have.

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