What our saliva can tell us

As we understand more and more of how human health works, and as more and more of the delicate and intricate interconnections surface, more and more delicate and intricate ways of healing are bound to arise. One of the things that is surfacing now is our ability to prevent diseases, and to predict with startling accuracy what kind of conditions are going to arise, even before the damage is done. We now talk of precancerous lesions, of prehypertension, and prediabetes. This is because we can now read the signs that diseases make before they actually hit, and one of the hints is frequently in the saliva and in the oral biome. Here are some of the things that our saliva tells us about ourselves.



A recent study on obese children in Kuwait has suggested that there are specific biomarkers that indicate that the child is currently forming diabetes, or will soon have it in the future. We know that patients suffering from this illness have higher levels of insulin and leptin in their saliva, and thus, high levels of leptin and insulin together are biomarkers for developing diabetes. When someone who does not have diabetes starts to get the oral conditions that a diabetes patient have, we can be sure that they are developing the illness, and need an intervention, one that can stop them from developing diabetes and becoming ill. Metabolic diseases besides diabetes can also be tested for, without fail, as these affect the chemical makeup of saliva.


Oral cancer makes a very specific shift in the enzymes and bacteria that live in the mouth, and is thus easy to predict before it happens, or when it is just still developing. But cancers that are not in the mouth, but in any other parts of the body also affect saliva. This is just one more way in which we can be sure that all parts of the body are connected to all other parts.


The motor system disorder Parkinson’s develops certain abnormal proteins in the submandibular salivary gland. These proteins are only made when the patient is suffering from Parkinson’s, and although these proteins necessarily indicate that the disease has taken hold when present, they do make diagnosis really quick and easy, giving the doctor more time to intervene.


The hormones testosterone, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone, when found in high levels with each other in the saliva of boys is correlated to aggression and violent behavior. These problems almost always have a hormonal aspect (and usually a very unhealthy social one as well, such as abuse or neglect), and identifying these problems could help mental health experts to give the necessary attention that these kids need.

By being able to tell that someone is at risk of developing certain problems, and being able to prevent that illness from happening before it does, medicine is gaining incredible ground on diseases. In theory, early diagnosis and prediction can even make standard medical treatment as we understand it today obsolete, but sadly, things are never that simple. But this does mean that the length of our lives will become much longer, and it also means that the quality of those years is also likely to be much higher, as our last years will not be spent battling illness, but rather, preventing it.

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