Salivary Diagnostics: Your Molecular X-Ray

According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of technology is a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge. This definition rings true for the introduction of clinical laboratory testing for the health care professions. It was noted in research by the NIH, “…it was not until 1896 that the first clinical laboratory was opened, a twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot room equipped at a cost of $50 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.”1 So for over a century, medical professionals have been utilizing clinical laboratory testing for a higher quality of care of their patients. It makes logical sense, that the more we know the better we can treat. With clinical laboratory testing, a majority of tests are used to rule out more often than rule in possibilities. Our medical professionals through their education and continuing education learn how to order lab tests to better guide the therapy they provide.

Herein lies the paradigm shift for the dental professionals; they are taught to use their eyes. Sure, they have incorporated radiographs and now use technical advances like digital radiographs. This technology has allowed the dental professional to provide better care for patients in areas such as caries and endodontics.

Consider salivary diagnostics (clinical laboratory testing) as a molecular radiograph. The clinical signs may look the same, among different patients, but the underlying cause(s) may be drastically different. For example, periodontal inflammation- bleeding on probing—looks the same whether the inflammation is being caused by periodontal bacteria or hormones (pregnancy or diabetes). Our eyes cannot visually tell the difference. However, by incorporating salivary diagnostics on a daily basis, the results from these clinical laboratory tests will help guide, and advance, your patient care.



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Diane Larson RDH, BSDH