Type 1 diabetes mellitus, xerostomia, and salivary flow rates

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2001 Sep;92(3):281-91. doi: 10.1067/moe.2001.117815.


Objective: The Oral Health Science Institute at the University of Pittsburgh has completed a cross-sectional epidemiologic study of 406 subjects with type 1 diabetes and 268 control subjects without diabetes that assessed the associations between oral health and diabetes. This report describes the prevalence of dry-mouth symptoms (xerostomia), the prevalence of hyposalivation in this population, and the possible interrelationships between salivary dysfunction and diabetic complications.

Study design: The subjects with diabetes were participants in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications study who were enrolled in an oral health substudy. Control subjects were spouses or best friends of participants or persons recruited from the community through advertisements in local newspapers. Assessments of salivary function included self-reported xerostomia measures and quantification of resting and stimulated whole saliva flow rates.

Results: Subjects with diabetes reported symptoms of dry mouth more frequently than did control subjects. Salivary flow rates were also impaired in the subjects with diabetes. Regression models of potential predictor variables were created for the 3 self-reported xerostomia measures and 4 salivary flow rate variables. Of the medical diabetic complications studied (ie, retinopathy, peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, nephropathy, and peripheral vascular disease), only neuropathy was found to be associated with xerostomia and decreased salivary flow measures. A report of dry-mouth symptoms was associated with current use of cigarettes, dysgeusia (report of a bad taste), and more frequent snacking behavior. Xerogenic medications and elevated fasting blood glucose concentrations were significantly associated with decreased salivary flow. Resting salivary flow rates less than 0.01 mL/min were associated with a slightly higher prevalence of dental caries. Subjects who reported higher levels of alcohol consumption were less likely to have lower rates of stimulated salivary flow.

Conclusions: Subjects with type 1 diabetes who had developed neuropathy more often reported symptoms of dry mouth as well as symptoms of decreased salivary flow rates. Because of the importance of saliva in the maintenance and the preservation of oral health, management of oral diseases in diabetic patients should include a comprehensive evaluation of salivary function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Caries / classification
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / complications
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / complications
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / complications
  • Fasting
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Salivation / physiology
  • Secretory Rate / physiology
  • Smoking
  • Taste Disorders / complications
  • Xerostomia / etiology*
  • Xerostomia / physiopathology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents