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Saliva Protein May Reflect Periodontal Disease
October 10, 2012

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - A small study has found that a protein in saliva is associated with long-term periodontal disease.

The study included 34 people. Half of them had chronic (long-term) periodontal disease. The other half did not. Each person gave a saliva sample. Researchers also examined each person to find out how severe the periodontal disease was.

People with long-term periodontal disease had higher levels of a protein called lactoferrin. This protein is part of the body's defense system. It can destroy bacteria and fungi. It is considered an important defense factor in saliva.

Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection. So the body may produce lactoferrin to try to fight the disease. Another common defense protein, called IgA, was not found at higher levels in people with periodontal disease. Both lactoferrin and IgA protect the body's mucous membranes. These membranes line the digestive system, lungs, mouth, nostrils, ears, eyes and genitals.

Other studies have found that people with gingivitis and periodontal disease have higher levels of lactoferrin in their saliva. The authors note that a saliva test for lactoferrin could help diagnose people with periodontal disease.

The study appears in the October issue of the Journal of Periodontal Research.

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