By: Beth Walsh for Dental1
A portable saliva test device developed by a University of Michigan School of Dentistry professor could diagnose periodontal disease in just minutes. A dentist can use the kit to analyze one drop of saliva in less than 10 minutes rather than hours of time at an off-site laboratory.
|Periodontal disease occurs very slowly, so it is not always noticeable. Signs and symptoms include:|
Pressure or an itchy feeling in gums and between teeth
Gums that bleed during and after brushing
Red, swollen or tender gums
Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
Loose or shifting teeth
Changes in the way teeth fit together when biting, or in the fit of partial dentures
Sensitivity to hot and cold food and drink
The main cause of periodontal disease is the accumulation of plaque – an often colorless mass of bacteria that sticks to teeth, crowns and bridges, and other tissues in the mouth. Plaque is constantly forming on the teeth. If not removed daily, plaque becomes tartar, which cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. A dentist or other oral healthcare provider must manually remove it to stop the disease process.
The American Academy of Periodontology says that up to 30 percent of the U.S. population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, genetically predisposed people may be up to six times more likely to develop some form of gum disease.
Periodontal disease is preventable in most people. Good brushing and flossing habits are important. Brushing eliminates plaque from teeth surfaces, while flossing removes plaque from in between the teeth and under the gum line. It is also best to see a dentist twice per year.
Dr. William Giannobile, director of the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research, said that the Center has been conducting tests that are adaptable to using microfluidic technology. The Center was established in 2003 to take research lab discoveries and find ways to use them to benefit dentists and their patients. In this case, the team has developed a “miniaturized lab-on-a-chip approach,” which allows for quick separation and analysis of proteins. The saliva test kit measures a tissue-destructive enzyme, matrix metalloptoteinase-8, a molecule which is released from cells that tend to migrate to periodontal lesions.
Giannobile said that the Center’s study of the screening procedure resulted in highly accurate identification of patients with periodontal disease. Convenient and accurate detection of periodontal disease is important since researchers estimate that more than half of adults over age 35 are already in the early stages of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is usually slow, painless and progressive, and most adults don’t even know that they have it. The term describes all of the diseases that involve the supporting structures of the teeth, such as the gums and bones. In adults, chronic destructive periodontal disease becomes responsible for more loss of teeth than cavities, particularly in older people. This disease is the primary cause of tooth loss after the age of 35. If diagnosed and treated early, however, the teeth can be saved.