It can be a hassle having to make multiple appointments with different professionals for each aspect of your health, not to mention a financial strain. What if you could combine your routine dental checkup with a medical screening? New research at the UCLA School of Dentistry is showing that your saliva may show early signs of many different diseases, including some life-threatening cancers. Soon you may be able to get a routine dental checkup AND physical checkup in one visit!
Dr. David Wong, UCLA’s associate dean of research, was recently featured in the Journal of the American Dental Association, where he explains the research done by those in the School of Dentistry, which is being called “salivaomics.” Saliva is made up of complex molecules, and if looking carefully, doctors or dentists can find everything from proteins to genetic material. When the molecules are identified, the genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics (or, simply put, the “omics”) of the saliva can be studied for detection of diabetes, autoimmune disease, and even cancer.
Studying biomarkers is a developed field that is commonly used for diagnosis. Doctors often take blood or other samples in order to diagnose in this manner, however it’s very invasive. Salivaomics requires only a saliva sample, and therefore could be much more comfortable and preferable. Dr. Wong and his associates believe that saliva could be just as valuable in diagnosis as other bodily fluids.
If salivaomics is successful, it will be a huge step forward in detection, treatment, and prediction of recurrence of potentially life-threatening diseases. Using saliva samples to detect abnormalities is more convenient and inexpensive than other methods. Wong predicts that eventually, this research will lead to practical medical applications and will be administered in both doctors’ and dentists’ offices.
The use of salivaomics could also lead to more diagnoses and, consequently, more treatments of these diseases. It has been shown that 20 percent more Americans visit their dentist more regularly than their doctor. Therefore, if dentists are able to diagnose for these severe health problems, there will be more opportunity for treatment. In addition, this can help free up a doctor’s schedule, and allows dentists and doctors to work together. If a severe problem is detected by the dentist, he can refer the patient to a doctor for treatment.
This new technique could also result in saving money since you would no longer have to go to two different professionals for dental care and health diagnosis. However, whether you’re saving money or not, dental care can still be expensive! If you choose to go to the dentist instead of a doctor, you may want to look into getting a dental discount plan in order to help you save even more on dental work.