Unlocking Saliva Secrets: Combatting Dry Mouth with OralDNA® Testing

In our daily lives, the significance of saliva is often overlooked, yet it plays a crucial role in our overall health. Saliva is more than just a means to keep our mouths moist, it is a vital component in protecting against viruses and bacteria, aiding in digestion, and even influencing our taste and speech.

About 10% of the general population and 25% of older adults experience dry mouth AKA xerostomia, which impacts not just oral health but quality of life.

Dry mouth occurs when there’s insufficient saliva production, leading to discomforts such as difficulty in swallowing, speaking, and an increased risk of dental issues. The average person swallows one to two liters of saliva per day, highlighting its importance in our daily functions. Saliva is enriched with enzymes and minerals like calcium and phosphate, which protect against tooth decay, aid in the remineralization of teeth, and restore soft tissues in the mouth. It also has antifungal properties, neutralizes mouth acids, and reduces the incidence of sores and infections in the oral cavity.

The production of saliva is managed by our autonomous nervous system and involves three pairs of major salivary glands, along with numerous minor ones within the oral cavity. When this system is disrupted, whether by medication, dehydration, or other health conditions, the result can be profoundly uncomfortable and potentially harmful.

A leading cause of dry mouth is medication, with over 500 types, including antidepressants and antihistamines, known to cause this condition. This underscores the importance of salivary diagnostic testing, an invaluable tool I employ in my practice to monitor and manage oral health effectively. By using tests like MyPerioPath® from OralDNA Labs, we can identify specific pathogens in the mouth with a simple swish-gargle-collect saliva test. Some of these pathogens are linked to a range of serious health conditions, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, and even certain cancers, which can all lead to dry mouth.

These tests offer a comprehensive view of one’s oral microbiome, enabling targeted treatments that go beyond standard dental care such as ozone and laser treatments to address the root causes of chronic conditions. For instance, certain types of periodontal disease-causing pathogens, if not adequately managed, can lead to systemic inflammation, affecting not just oral health but contributing to conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

For individuals experiencing dry mouth, it’s crucial to be proactive. Simple steps like staying hydrated, practicing good oral hygiene without harmful chemicals, and considering saliva substitutes can make a significant difference. Salivary diagnostic tests can also guide personalized treatment plans, ensuring that any underlying issues are addressed before they escalate.

Understanding and managing dry mouth is vital for maintaining not only oral health but also our overall well-being. Through the use of salivary diagnostic testing and targeted interventions, we can better protect ourselves against the myriad health challenges that arise from compromised oral health. As we continue to learn more about the oral-systemic connection, the importance of saliva and its role in our health becomes ever clearer, underscoring the need for comprehensive approaches to dental and general health care.


  1. OralDNA Labs. (n.d.). MyPerioPath Report Sample. Retrieved from https://www.oraldna.com/pdf/tests/MyPerioPath_ReportNew.pdf.
  2. Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Dry Mouth. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dry-mouth.
  3. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (n.d.). Dry Mouth. Retrieved from https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/dry-mouth.
  4. Villa, A., Connell, C. L., & Abati, S. (2016). Diagnosis and management of xerostomia and hyposalivation. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 12, 45–51. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5052503/.

Catherine Staffeldt RDH
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