Problems in the mouth can signal trouble in other parts of the body. AIDS and osteoporosis are examples.
1. Mouth lesions and other oral conditions may be the first sign of HIV infection, and are used to determine the stage of infection and to follow its progression to AIDS.
2. Studies in post-menopausal women suggest that bone loss in the lower jaw may be related to the skeletal bone loss seen in osteoporosis.
Saliva As a Diagnostic Tool
Saliva, like blood and urine, can be used to detect and measure many compounds in the body. Saliva collection has the advantage of being noninvasive.
1. Many medications as well as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, opiates, and other drugs can be detected and measured in saliva. Hormones and environmental toxins can also be measured in saliva.
2. Saliva can be used to detect antibodies against viruses such as HIV and hepatitis A and B, as well as antibodies against bacteria like Helicobacter pylori, which causes peptic ulcers.
3. Saliva could potentially replace blood testing for diagnosis and monitoring of diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, alcoholic cirrhosis, and many infectious diseases.
The Mouth As Source of Infection
The human mouth is home to millions of microorganisms, most of them harmless. Under certain conditions, however, some can cause oral infections such as tooth decay or gum disease. Oral bacteria may also enter the bloodstream if normal protective barriers in the mouth are breached. This can happen as a result of dental treatment or even tooth brushing and flossing.
In people with healthy immune systems, the influx of oral bacteria into the bloodstream is harmless. If the immune system is weakened by disease or medical treatments, however, oral bacteria can cause infection in other parts of the body. Infective endocarditis and oral complications of cancer treatments are examples.