The individual risk of caries and periodontitis can be detected via a saliva test. It allows to analyse saliva both quantitatively (amount) and qualitatively (buffering capacity). Besides, it can give an assessment of the amount and type of bacteria in saliva and in the mouth.
Carbohydrates contained in food (sugars) are metabolised by bacteria found in the mouth which leads to the occurrence of acids. These acids attack the enamel. This is how caries begins. Saliva contains substances which are able to buffer these acids and protect the teeth. The more saliva is in the mouth, the better it protects the teeth. In average, we produce 0.5-1.5 litres saliva per day. At night, the amount drops to almost zero. Therefore,
Eating sweets right before bedtime is extremely harmful.
To little saliva may result in increased risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease. Saliva contains mineral substances such as phosphate and calcium, which are essential for healthy teeth, as well as fluorides. By integrating these substances into initial carious lesions in enamel, it is possible to repair them. Besides, saliva contains digestive enzymes which start to break down food.
A saliva test helps analyse various parameters:
- Saliva flow rate: the patient is chewing a paraffine ball and his saliva is collected and its amount is measured for five minutes. It should be at least 1 millilitre per minute. Too little saliva can be caused e.g. by particular medicines, stress, smoking or pregnancy. Chewing a chewing-gum stimulates the flow of saliva.
- Saliva buffering capacity: the sourer saliva is, the higher the risk of dental caries is.
- Bacterial flora: bacteria like Streptococcus Mutans and Lactobacillus promote dental caries.
By applying a saliva test it is possible to measure their amount and the risk of dental caries. Saliva is stored on test strips within an incubator and after several days, the result can be evaluated. The greater number of bacteria present, the greater the risk of caries is.