Aging and secretory reserve capacity of major salivary glands

J Dent Res. 2003 Oct;82(10):844-8. doi: 10.1177/154405910308201016.


A loss of acinar cells occurs with aging, while salivary production remains age-stable in healthy adults. It is hypothesized that a secretory reserve exists to preserve function despite a loss of acinar cells in normal aging. The purpose of this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study was to determine age-related differences in salivary response to an anti-sialogogue (glycopyrrolate). Thirty-six healthy subjects (18 young--20-38 yrs; 18 older--60-77 yrs) received 4.0 microg/kg i.v. glycopyrrolate. Parotid and submandibular/sublingual saliva samples and xerostomia questionnaire responses were collected. Variables calculated for each subject were: times to initial and maximum suppression and xerostomic complaint; time to recovery; and durations of suppression and complaint. Salivary function was more adversely affected in older persons. There were no consistent age-associated questionnaire response differences. These findings suggest that salivary gland output is more adversely affected by an anti-sialogogue in healthy older vs. younger adults, supporting the secretory reserve hypothesis of salivary function.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glycopyrrolate / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Parotid Gland / drug effects
  • Placebos
  • Salivary Glands / drug effects
  • Salivary Glands / metabolism*
  • Salivation / drug effects
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Sublingual Gland / drug effects
  • Submandibular Gland / drug effects
  • Time Factors
  • Xerostomia / chemically induced


  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • Placebos
  • Glycopyrrolate