Background: This review examines salivary constituents as potential diagnostic tests for periodontal disease. Saliva is a fluid that is readily available and contains locally-produced microbial and host response mediators, as well as systemic (serum) markers that may prove to be an aid in the diagnosis of periodontal disease.
Methods: A medline search was conducted and the relevant literature concerning the applications of saliva for periodontal diagnosis was reviewed.
Results: Based on the literature, salivary markers that have been studied as potential diagnostic tests for periodontal disease include proteins of host origin (i.e., enzymes, immunoglobulins), phenotypic markers, host cells, hormones (cortisol), bacteria and bacterial products, ions and volatile compounds.
Conclusions: A number of markers show promise as sensitive measures of disease and the effectiveness of therapy. At this time, host-derived enzymes and other inflammatory mediators orginating from the gingival crevice appear to hold the greatest promise as salivary diagnostic tests for periodontal disease. Longer-term longitudinal studies, however, are required to establish the relationship between specific markers and progression of periodontal disease. Furthermore, analysis of saliva may offer a cost-effective approach to assessment of periodontal disease in large populations.