Wellness

What Your Saliva Says About Your Health

By | October 1, 2015

Your spit not only softens your food — emerging research suggests it can help maintain your overall health.

According to LiveScience, a person produces one to two liters of saliva per day. That’s a lot, but for all the chewing, digesting, and drooling we do, it’s a range that actually makes sense.

Saliva had often been overlooked as an indicator of your overall bodily health in the past, but saliva testing is now frequently being used as an efficient, cost-effective alternative to traditional evaluations of your overall bodily health.

Spit it Out

Saliva has numerous digestive functions — like moistening food, breaking it down, and enhancing taste — but it’s also essential for good oral health. According to the American Dental Association, saliva washes food away from your teeth and gums, helping to prevent cavities and other oral infections. A lack of it, however, can signify a whole different range of health problems.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a decrease in the amount of saliva produced, known as dry mouth, can negatively impact digestion and appetite. There are some telltale signs of having dry mouth: not only dryness of the mouth, but also thick or stringy saliva, difficulty chewing and swallowing, irritation of the gums, and tooth decay.

On one side dry mouth can be caused by poor health, and on the other side, taking prescription medications can also lead to the condition.

The consistency of your saliva is also useful in identifying an oral infection. Thick, white, and clumpy saliva may be a sign of a fungal infection, according to Prevention.com. In these cases, the best solution is to see your doctor. You may needan antifungal prescription.

Bitter-tasting saliva can also signal red flags. According to Health.com, it’s often a symptom of acid reflux, a condition that causes stomach acid to rise up into your mouth. Acid reflux increases the acidity of your mouth, and can actually wear away teeth and cause cavities. These bitter tastes often emerge at night, and a doctor can test the pH of your mouth to see if you’re affected.

Saliva as a Science

Spit can also be a bellwether for more serious diseases. According to The Washington Post, saliva can tell doctors whether an individual is at risk for Alzheimer’s, even before memory loss occurs.

It may also be used to determine a patient’s risk of HIV infection, according to recent research from the Johns Hopkins Center for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research. Doug Granger, the director of the study, explains that saliva has been used since the 1990s as a viable alternative to blood and urine samples.

In fact, decades-old research published in the New England Journal of Medicine provided evidence that the molecules found in saliva are actually connected to HIV.

And for diabetes patients, saliva may provide a non-invasive and less costly way to measure blood sugar levels and test for diabetes, at least according to research from Purdue University.

Prices You Can Stomach

In all, oral fluid diagnostics are growing in popularity across the healthcare industry, as dentists and other medical professionals seek to expand and improve preventative medicine.

If you’re looking to pay a dentist or general practitioner a visit in order to get a full evaluation of your oral health, you can now do so with affordability in mind. SingleCare provides accessible, low-cost healthcare on an as-need basis, working directly with a national network of medical professionals to offer discounted prices.

This way, patients can find the doctors they trust, with no billing surprises waiting for them in the mail. An oral check-up should be as simple as brushing your teeth, and with SingleCare, that reality is within reach.

(Main image credit: Tommy Forbes/flickr)