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Volume 10 (2010), Pages 434-456
Review Article

Saliva: Physiology and Diagnostic Potential in Health and Disease

1Inflammation and Infection Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Westminster, London, UK
2Dr. Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, Hitchin, UK
3Division of Carcinogenesis, Biomarkers and Epidemiology Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA

Received 8 December 2009; Revised 10 February 2010; Accepted 13 February 2010

Academic Editor: Mauro Perretti

Copyright © 2010 Sebastien J. C. Farnaud et al.


Saliva has been described as the mirror of the body. In a world of soaring healthcare costs and an environment where rapid diagnosis may be critical to a positive patient outcome, saliva is emerging as a viable alternative to blood sampling. In this review, we discuss the composition and various physiological roles of saliva in the oral cavity, including soft tissue protection, antimicrobial activities, and oral tissue repair. We then explore saliva as a diagnostic marker of local oral disease and focus particularly on oral cancers. The cancer theme continues when we focus on systemic disease diagnosis from salivary biomarkers. Communicable disease is the focus of the next section where we review the literature relating to the direct and indirect detection of pathogenic infections from human saliva. Finally, we discuss hormones involved in appetite regulation and whether saliva is a viable alternative to blood in order to monitor hormones that are involved in satiety.