New at-home saliva test to detect early signs of gum disease


US engineers have developed a new device that can warn consumers about early risks of tooth decay from diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis.

Periodontal diseases if left untreated can lead to severe health problems like heart disease, tooth loss, stroke and other major diseases. But in the case of gingivitis, it is the earliest form of gum disease caused by specific bacteria, making it challenging to detect.

“The problem for researchers was getting a device to single out the particular type responsible for the disease,” said Andrew Steckl, research professor at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“It’s been quite the challenge to get to the point where we can detect this toxin created by the bacteria responsible for gingivitis,” he added.

The new device uses saliva to detect the disease as it has a lot of important elements that can act as indicators of health.

Bacteria from gingivitis can travel through the bloodstream, leading to cardiovascular disease and other serious health problems, Steckl said.

But saliva is a complicated biofluid.

“There are good reasons to use saliva,” Steckl said, adding that saliva is relatively plentiful and easy to obtain through noninvasive methods.

Researchers pretreated the sample using potato starch to remove a protein called amylase that could interfere with the test results. Their test uses antibodies that react to the endotoxins found in the bacteria. Their study is published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Sensors and Diagnostics.