Saliva: Salivary Microbiota, Kissing and Dry Mouth
Published: 28 March 2018
Published: 28 March 2018
‘The importance of saliva in our everyday activities and the medicinal properties it possesses are often taken for granted’ (Tiwari 2011).
Whilst it may not be the most pleasant or attractive health topic, it is clear that to provide evidence-based care, nurses and healthcare professionals need to know about the bodily fluids that they may come in contact with when providing face-to-face patient care.
This article overviews some issues related to saliva.
Kissing is, of course, a common interaction that involves the transfer of saliva.
Wlodarski and Dunbar (2013) studied the possible functions of kissing, and concluded that kissing’s key purpose was not to increase arousal but to assess the suitability of a mate.
Kort et al. (2014) studied kissing behaviours and salivary microbiota.
The microbiota of the saliva appears to be more similar in couples than disconnected individuals (Kort et al. 2014). However, Kort et al. (2014) indicate that this higher similarity is likely due to a higher frequency of intimate kissing.
Interestingly, couples tested within an hour-and-a-half of a kiss or who have around nine or more kisses daily were more likely to share salivary microbiota (Kort et al. 2014).
Microbiology aside, Wlodarski and Dunbar maintain that partners’ kissing frequency remains a sign of relationship satisfaction (2013).
Understanding oral bacteria is still an important part of oral and dental health.
Harmful oral bacteria may lead to health issues such as potential disease spread and risk for aspiration pneumonia (Better Health Channel 2014; Kikutani et al. 2014).
It was found in Kikutani et al.’s study that ‘(an) oral bacteria count of 108.5 colony-forming units/mL saliva in an elderly person requiring care was identified as a risk factor for pneumonia onset’ (2014).
Additionally, Whitmore and Lamont (2014) claim that ‘improved oral hygiene and treatment of periodontitis may be useful in limiting the development or spread of cancer.’
Evidently, there is a need for nurses and healthcare professionals to promote, deliver and train clients in the correct and ongoing oral hygiene practices and check-ups.
Javaid et al. (2016) explain that saliva can be used for diagnostic testing due to its biomarkers, genetic matter and proteins.
Salivary testing is described as not only being relatively easy but also cost-efficient. It is apparent that increased research into this field, as well as validation and establishment of guidelines, may all improve the use of salivary diagnostic tools (Javaid et al. 2016).
Some other interesting studies related to saliva include those by Furness et al. (2013) and Riley et al. (2017) that investigated the prevention of dry mouth.
Furness et al. stated that there was not enough evidence to conclude whether electrostimulation was effective for prevention of dry mouth.
They also concluded that there was low-quality evidence that symptoms of dry mouth were no different between acupuncture or placebo treatment.
Yet, Furness et a.l also conveyed that there was some low-quality evidence that acupuncture may increase saliva in small amounts for people with dry mouth post radiotherapy (2013).
Riley et al. (2017) found in their study that the sensation of dry mouth may be prevented with the use of amifostine for participants undergoing head and neck radiotherapy.
This conclusion was made based on evidence of low-quality and the effects were short- or medium-term (2017).
It was also found that the people who received amifostine were more likely to experience adverse effects, e.g. vomiting and low blood pressure (Riley et al. 2017), thereby emphasising that the use of amifostine needs to be cautioned and that a risks-versus-benefits analysis should occur.
Madeline Gilkes, CNS, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her master of healthcare leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her brief research proposal for her PhD application involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is working towards Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) status and primarily works in the role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. See Educator Profile