Review finds no robust evidence of a relationship between salivary proteins and dental caries


There is increasing interest in the use of salivary proteins as biomarkers for oral diagnostics and some studies have suggested potential for  these biomarkers in  oral cancer and Sjögrens syndrome . The aim of this review was to evaluate the potential of salivary proteins as biomarkers for dental caries

An electronic search was performed in the Medline, ISI Web of Science, Cochrane Library, Lilacs, Scielo, BBO, Paho and Wholis databases.  Reference lists of identified articles were searched. No language restrictions were applied.   Methodological quality was assessed based on criteria developed from STROBE statement.  To be eligible for the systematic review, the observational controlled studies had to have groups with and without caries experience. Only studies in the healthy individuals with permanent dentition with who were not taking any medication that could affect the salivary composition were included  Studies with high risk of bias were excluded.

  • Seven studies were included, 4 were classified as low risk of bias and 3 moderate risk.
  • Three studies reported a relation between salivary proteins and dental caries.

The authors concluded

There was not sufficient evidence to establish salivary proteins as a biomarker for this disease although three of the seven studies showed a relation between salivary proteins and dental caries in terms of protein phenotypes, total protein concentration and protein molecular weight


The authors have conducted a wide search of the literature but only 7 of the 188 identified were included. While some details of the included studies are included it would have been helpful to have more information about the study designs.  Saliva is a complex fluid and some of the potential confounders with studying it are discussed by the authors. With caries being such a common problem and great interest in a simple test for assessing caries risk  it is disappointing the  largest study that the authors could include only had 96 participants.


Martins C, Buczynski AK, Maia LC, Siqueira WL, Castro GF. Salivary proteins as a biomarker for dental caries-A systematic review. J Dent. 2012 Nov 9. doi:pii: S0300-5712(12)00299-0. 10.1016/j.jdent.2012.10.015. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed  PMID: 23142096.


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Derek Richards

Derek Richards is a specialist in dental public health, Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Dentistry and Specialist Advisor to the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP) Development Team. A former editor of the Evidence-Based Dentistry Journal and chief blogger for the Dental Elf website until December 2023. Derek has been involved with a wide range of evidence-based initiatives both nationally and internationally since 1994. Derek retired from the NHS in 2019 remaining as a part-time senior lecturer at Dundee Dental School until the end of 2023.

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