Whole saliva and the diagnosis of Sjögren's syndrome: an evaluation of patients who complain of dry mouth and dry eyes. Part 1: Screening tests

Gerodontology. 1996 Jul;13(1):35-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-2358.1996.tb00148.x.


Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is a common autoimmune disorder characterised by generalised desiccation, exocrine hypofunction and serologic abnormalities, More than 90% of the patients are women.

Objective: To determine if whole saliva could be used to diagnose this disease.

Setting: The study was conducted at the School of Dental Medicine, SUNY, at Stony Brook.

Patients: There were 49 subjects (48 F; 1 M), the mean age was 54 +/- 13 years. In order to be admitted into the study, they had to complain of dry mouth and dry eyes.

Tests: Whole saliva was collected by the spitting method. "Screening Tests" were employed to measure the salivary flow rate, pH, buffer capacity; lactobacillus and yeast concentrations. Chemical tests were performed to determine protein, albumin, sodium and amylase activity. Lacrimal dryness was assessed by the Schirmer and Rose-Bengal methods.

Results: Based on the sialometric findings, the patients were divided into 3 groups: Group 1: those with abnormally low resting (RFR) and stimulated (SFR) flow rates; Group 2: those with a low RFR but normal SFR; and Group 3: those with normal salivary flow rates. The group 1 patients were unique: their saliva demonstrated a low pH and buffer capacity, high lactobacillus and yeast concentrations, decreased protein output and amylase activity, and elevated albumin and sodium. Moreover, virtually all of them had abnormally low lacrimal flow rates.

Conclusions: The findings suggested that whole saliva could be used to provisionally diagnose SS. Critical to this diagnosis was an abnormally low stimulated whole saliva flow rate. Other requisites included a low resting flow rate, the presence of dry mouth and dry eyes and evidence of lacrimal hypofunction. All of these attributes can easily be obtained by dentists in their clinics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / isolation & purification
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Secretory Rate
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tears / metabolism
  • Yeasts / isolation & purification