Jonathan A. Ship, DMD, Department of Oral Medicine and the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research; New York University College of Dentistry, New York, NY.
Saliva is critically important for oral and pharyngeal health. Xerostomic complaints and salivary hypofunction are common in older adults, producing impaired nutritional intake, host defence and communication. Salivary function remains remarkably intact in healthy older persons. Systemic diseases, medications and head and neck radiotherapy for cancer account for the majority of salivary disorders in the elderly. Diagnosis of the underlying phenomenon is critical before implementing therapy. Management strategies include replacement therapies and gustatory, masticatory and pharmacological stimulants. Prevention of the oral and pharyngeal sequelae of salivary hypofunction requires a multidisciplinary approach to stomatological care.
Key words: xerostomia, saliva, Sjögren's syndrome, salivary glands, radiotherapy.