New research has resulted in a research team developing a “score” to describe the level of proteins called cytokines in the saliva. The research showed that there was a strong association with the cytokine levels in the saliva and the development and stage of gum disease. This is a useful finding, and can help in informing scientists of ways of treating gum disease.

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Researchers at New York University’s (NYU) College of Dentistry have managed to develop a “score” to describe the level of cytokines in the saliva – with this score associated with the severity of clinical gum inflammation [1].

This finding is interesting, and could help in the treatment of gum disease. For example, this may include factors like how well the patient is responding to treatment, and if the condition is likely to worsen.


Gum disease is an incredibly common condition. For example, the World Health Organization states that around 19% of the global population have severe periodontal disease, with hundreds of millions of people having a form of gum disease [2].

Gum disease is a chronic condition, but with the right treatment, its impact can be controlled. Symptoms include inflamed gums, increased redness, bleeding gums and even tooth detachment from the gums [3].

The importance of saliva

A central tenet of gum disease is the importance of saliva. Angela Kamer, of NYU’s College of Dentistry, explains this. Kamer says that “periodontal inflammation is not just apparent upon examination, but is reflected in the patient’s saliva” [3].

Periodontal disease involves an unhealthy imbalance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria under the gumline – and how the immune system subsequently reacts [3].

Therefore, saliva is important to consider. Cytokines – which are small proteins – are another important aspect. The researchers noted that the immune system’s response to gum disease involves high levels of cytokines rushing to the inflamed gums [3].

The researchers wanted to find out if there was a connection between having knowledge of clinically detected gum inflammation and the level of cytokines found in saliva [1].

The Results

The findings from the research were published in the PLOS ONE journal [1]. The study involved 67 individuals. These individuals were all aged 45 and over, and all had clinically diagnosed gum disease.

Saliva samples were collected as part of the study. The subjects rinsed their mouths to clear debris, before chewing on a piece of unflavored gum. The saliva was spat out, before being analyzed [1].

Next, the researchers needed to measure the level of gum inflammation [1]. They used something called the “Periodontal Inflamed Surface Area” (PISA), which is calculated by using measurements of the depth of pockets in the gums and bleeding upon probing [1]. The higher the PISA score, the worse inflammation is.

The results showed that PISA scores were strongly linked with cytokine scores. Therefore, the researchers found that the higher a cytokine score, the more gum inflammation there was.

These results show that saliva is a very strong indicator of gum disease. Specifically, the cytokine score is of particular importance. The researchers found a very strong association between these factors.

Author Comments

The authors discussed the findings [3]. As seen in this study, saliva is crucial, which is reflected in the words of head author Vera Tang, who said “salivary cytokines are a window into the molecular make-up of the oral environment” [3].

The researchers were clear with their conclusions, stating that their result “demonstrates that a single score encompassing several salivary cytokines correlates with the severity of periodontal inflammation” [3].

The researchers did caution that further research would be needed [3]. This would ensure that those at different stages of gum disease would be reviewed, to ensure that a wider picture became available.

Further research could pave the way for seeing how well a patient responds to gum disease treatment, and its impact on other systemic diseases. There is still plenty to learn in this field, but these are positive findings.

Thinking points…

1) This research adds to existing knowledge on gum disease. So many people around the world deal with gum disease. While gum disease is chronic, there are treatments that can assist – namely root planing and scaling. It could be worth having a discussion with your dentist about your gums, and see if treatment is available. Why not discuss with them at your next appointment?

2) Ideally, no one would suffer with gum disease. While sometimes it is unavoidable, we should do our utmost to take care of our oral health, and protect the health of our gums. An important part of this is attending a dental clinic for a check-up at least twice a year. These check-ups allow your oral health to be reviewed, advice can be provided and treatment options discussed if needed. We recommend booking an appointment now!

What we offer at Taradale Dental

Taradale Dental is a Calgary dental clinic that provide its patients with a wide range of dental services and treatments

It is very important to have excellent oral hygiene. This involves brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing regularly and eating healthily. Therefore, this should help your oral health.

We advise our patients to attend our Calgary dental clinic at least twice per year for a regular dental check-up. At these check-ups, we provide our patients with advice, and look for any problems. If problems are found, we have many treatments available. For example, these include cavity fillings and root canals.

Here at Taradale Dental, we also have some cosmetic treatments available! These include dental implants, teeth whitening and Invisalign™! Many people find that these treatments have a positive impact on their appearance, confidence and self-esteem.

Moreover, all of our services at our Calgary dental clinic Taradale Dental are set in line with the Alberta Dental Fee Guide. This ensures transparent and fair pricing.

We hope to see you soon at our Taradale Dental clinic in Calgary! You can find out more about us by visiting our website


[1] Tang, V., Hamidi, B., Janal, M. N., Barber, C. A., Godder, B., Palomo, L., & Kamer, A. R. (2023). Periodontal Inflamed Surface Area (PISA) associates with composites of salivary cytokines. PLOS ONE. 18 (2): e0280333.DOI:

[2] World Health Organization. (2022). Oral Health. Available: Last accessed: 25th February 2023.

[3] NYU College of Dentistry. (2023). Higher Levels of Cytokines in Saliva Match Greater Gum Inflammation. Available: Last accessed: 25th February 2023.