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A nicotine saliva test is a lab test used to check for nicotine or byproducts of nicotine in a person's saliva. There are a number of uses for such tests, ranging from epidemiological studies to drug testing. A number of companies make tests sold over the counter for home use, allowing people to monitor nicotine exposure at home. It is also possible to have a sample of saliva taken and analyzed in a lab for a more sensitive test.
Many of these tests actually test for cotinine, a compound produced as a byproduct of nicotine metabolism. Others test for nicotine or for both chemicals. These compounds can take approximately a week to be fully expressed from the body, and it is important to be aware of this when taking a test. Sources of exposure can include tobacco smoke and nicotine replacement products.
One reason to request a nicotine saliva test is to verify that a patient is not smoking. Surgeons often recommend that patients stop smoking for several weeks before surgery to allow chemicals associated with tobacco to be expressed from the body. Some of these chemicals can interfere with post surgical healing, and the test can be used to verify patient compliance. Patients who are using nicotine replacement products should make sure their surgeons are aware of this because the test will have a positive result.
People trying to quit cigarettes can use the tests to track their progress. Another use for them is determining how much nicotine someone is absorbing. Everyone smokes differently and various tobacco products can have different levels of nicotine and other compounds. By conducting empirical testing, researchers can compare it with self-reporting results, and they can also study the effects of secondhand smoke on people who do not smoke.
A basic nicotine saliva test is rapid and painless. A swab is used to collect a saliva sample from the mouth and is used with a test cartridge for a rapid result at home or in office result. Other tests use a test strip designed to react to cotinine. If more precise results are needed, the swab can be put in a specimen container and sent to a lab. Blood and urine tests to examine nicotine levels are also available, and these tests can offer more precision. It is important for individuals to use the same test each time with someone receiving multiple tests, as results can vary and results between test types or brands cannot be reliably compared.
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