Background and purpose: Xerostomia is an important chronic side effect of radiotherapy in the head and neck area. The authors investigated the efficacy of different artificial saliva compounds in patients with postirradiation xerostomia.
Patients and methods: In 120 patients with xerostomia after radiotherapy for head and neck cancer, four different saliva substitute compounds (gel, carmellose spray, oil, mucin spray) were tested in a prospective crossover design. Xerostomia at baseline and under treatment with each compound was measured with a questionnaire approved in a pilot trial.
Results: All compounds significantly improved xerostomia when compared to baseline situation (p < 0.0001). The gel was rated best, the carmellose spray was rated worst by the patients, but the single compounds did not differ significantly in their effects. In spite of this result, most patients chose the carmellose spray as their favorite compound. This is due to its good taste and easy handling, which play an important role for the acceptance of the products. Big individual differences in the preference of the single compounds were found.
Conclusion: For most patients considerable relief from xerostomia can be reached by saliva substitutes. Thus, every patient with xerostomia should be given different artificial saliva compounds for a test period. This will help to find the individually best way to cope with the dry mouth.