Explore the Benefits of Salivary Testing Through Direct Diagnostics
As a clinician for more than half a century, Thomas W. Nabors, DDS, FACD, is well-versed in periodontal diagnostics and treatment strategies.
"My career spans 54 years with 2 years in the US Navy and 36 years in private practice. While rotating through dental specialties in the Navy, it became apparent to me that in periodontology, we needed to improve our diagnostic and treatment capabilities. Leaving patients with bleeding or inflammation did not seem like optimal medicine," Nabors says.
So, for the past 40 years he has studied both medical and periodontal research to understand the complete story of inflammation-specifically, to learn why and how some individuals move from gingivitis to periodontitis while others do not, and, moreover, to create a specific diagnostic platform that can prevent this from happening.
Since 2003, Nabors has been involved in diagnostic salivary testing in the dental industry, and today is Chief of Oral Systemic Medicine at Direct Diagnostics, a clinical laboratory and biotechnology company that focuses on molecular testing and point-of-care diagnostics. "We have developed saliva tests that can define each infection based on the exact nature of the disease with a treatment goal of complete healing as opposed to maintaining," he says.
"Periodontal disease is a serious inflammatory and infectious disease, and yet dentists are still primarily using ‘technology' that was invented in 1936 (the periodontal probe) to both diagnose and form treatment plans," Nabors says. "The periodontal probe does not diagnose an infection. It simply measures the past damage that has been driven by pathogens that set the immune process into a ‘chronic damage mode' (chronic inflammation). Because every infection is different, it makes zero scientific sense to treat every patient as if they have the same infection."
Instead, Nabors says the best option is for clinicians to utilize salivary testing to change how they diagnose and treat serious systemic inflammatory disease. "Think about saliva testing similar to how you think of x-rays," he recommends. "We learn such important information from both. In the case of periodontal inflammation, we can learn the exact cause. Thus, ‘before-and-after' saliva tests are important due to the biological information they contain."
The benefit to dental practices that provide salivary testing is multifold, Nabors suggests: (1) improved patient outcomes; (2) economic benefits to the clinic based on increased patient acceptance of treatment; and (3) perhaps most importantly, the clinician can discuss with the patient the findings of the test relative to oral-systemic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy issues, dementia, cancer, and arthritis, and do so in a more scientific manner.
Nabors is proud of the work Direct Diagnostics is doing in the dental industry. "We are changing salivary testing to match today's science with goals of improving testing targets, increasing accuracy, lowering cost, and making salivary testing easy to understand for both the clinician and the patient."
Thomas W. Nabors, DDS, FACD
Founder of DNA-PCR Saliva Testing for Oral Diseases and Genetics; Chief of Oral Systemic Medicine, Direct Diagnostics
Direct Diagnostics LLC