How Does a Saliva Drug Test Work?

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Learn How Mouth Swab Tests Work Before You Buy


If you're using an oral drug test kit, make sure it includes an indicator. Saliva drug tests can detect substances as fast as a urine drug screen; these tests contain built-in panels that react to drug metabolites in saliva specimens.

When you opt for a saliva collection device with a color indicator, the indicator color change will notify the donor that enough saliva has been collected to run the test without error. Many oral fluid devices lack this special feature, so it is important to choose an oral drug test kit that can make sure there is a smaller risk of false results due to insufficient specimen collection.

Compared to other drug testing methods, saliva drug tests are also the easiest to administer; no bathroom is required to collect a specimen, and little training is required to increase accuracy.

What can a mouth swab drug test detect?

An oral drug test kit can detect up to 14 different drugs. A 6-panel saliva drug test is the most commonly used type of oral fluid device, but most suppliers offer diverse configuration options:

  • Alcohol (ALC)
  • Amphetamines (AMP)
  • Barbiturates (BAR)
  • Benzodiazepines (BZO)
  • Buprenorphine (BUP)
  • Cocaine (COC)
  • Fentanyl (FEN)
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Methadone (MTD)
  • Methamphetamines (mAMP)
  • Opiates (OPI)
  • Oxycodone (OXY)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Synthetic Marijuana (K2/Spice)

How is a Saliva Drug Test Performed

  1. A third-party administrator will provide the donor with the swab component of the drug test, which resembles a sponge or a lollipop.

  2. The donor will be instructed to rub the swab against their cheeks or under their tongue until a sufficient saliva specimen is collected. This process usually takes approximately 2 minutes.

  3. The donor will return the saturated swab to the collector. The collector will insert the swab into the collection container to run the test panels.

  4. Wait 10 minutes. The saliva will saturate the panels to reveal the colored lines, indicating positive or negative drug test results (see below for further interpretation of results).

How to Read a Saliva Drug Test

Saliva drug test results are easy to interpret. Negative and positive results are displayed on each drug panel with colored lines:

Negative saliva drug test

negative saliva test result

Positive saliva drug test

positive saliva test result

How to Produce Saliva Fast

Some oral fluid devices are flavored to encourage saliva flow without impeding results. SalivaConfirm mouth swab drug tests are equipped with a minty tip for donors who cannot produce saliva quickly. This feature expedites the turnaround time of the test itself, which may be helpful during random, on-the-spot, and post-accident drug testing.

How Far Back Does a Mouth Swab Drug Test Go?

Within minutes, an oral drug test kit can determine if someone has used drug(s) in the past 3-24 hours. Saliva specimens offer the shortest detection windows, which is ideal for reasonable suspicion testing.

Are Saliva Drug Tests Accurate?

Saliva drug tests are very dependable point-of-care tests (POCT). Staffing and recruiting professionals prefer to issue oral drug test kits for candidate screening. Occupational safety managers who demand full-time sobriety can also benefit from using saliva drug tests.

However, if you do require assistance, TestCountry offers training guides and whitepapers to show you how to operate your saliva drug tests. Plus, our customer service team is always here to help.

How to pass a mouth swab drug test

It’s virtually impossible to adulterate an oral drug test kit because an unbiased collector must be present at all times during the collection procedure.

Even forums that advocate for artificial saliva use do not understand the accuracy and integrity of saliva drug tests. Cheating methods that will not work include:

  • Raking the tongue with a toothbrush
  • Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash
  • Minty toothpaste or sucking on breath mints
  • Drinking water

How long does THC stay in your saliva?

Marijuana metabolites, i.e. THC, can be detected in saliva samples for up to 24 hours, although the average detection time frame cut-off is 6-12 hours post-use.

As to whether CBD will show up on a drug test: the answer is no. CBD is not metabolized by the body the same way as THC, and so saliva drug tests are not calibrated to detect cannabinoid oil.

Where can I buy a saliva drug test kit?

Saliva drug tests are available at TestCountry in a number of popular brands. We offer many configurations and even supply drug tests with FDA and DOT certifications for compliance officers. Explore our collection to find the right oral drug test kit for you.


“Drug Testing FAQ's - Tests, Detection Times, and False Positives.”,,

“Employer Drug Testing Oral Fluids FAQs.” Omega Laboratories,

Armand. “Comparison of Urine and Oral Fluid for Workplace Drug Testing.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 16 Aug. 2016,