Age-related changes in unstimulated salivary function and composition and its relations to medications and oral sensorial complaints

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2005 Oct;17(5):358-66. doi: 10.1007/BF03324623.


Background and aims: The purpose of the current study was to examine the salivary flow rate and composition in relation to drug consumption and idiopathic oral sensorial complaints (OSC). OSC cover xerostomia, disturbed sense of taste, or burning mouth sensitivity with no established classical etiology (e.g., Sjogren's syndrome, or a response to radiotherapy).

Methods: A thorough sialometrical and sialochemical analysis was performed for all subjects who were healthy non-hospitalized individuals ranging in age from 18-89 years. Saliva samples were all collected in unstimulated conditions.

Results: The three most significant observations were: a) Elderly people have significantly reduced and altered salivary secretion. Whereas specific concentrations increased, the total values of most salivary components were found to be decreased in the elderly. b) Fifty percent of the elderly make OSC. c) OSC were made mainly by elderly individuals who use drugs.

Conclusions: Reduction in salivary function and altered composition are age-related. However, when drugs are not involved, a compensatory capacity which avoids OSC apparently exists. In contrast, the effect of drugs on OSC is extensive. The finding that the total amount of salivary components and not only salivary flow rates are reduced in the elderly is of great clinical importance, since such a reduction is expected to be reflected in compromising various salivary functions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Burning Mouth Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Saliva / physiology
  • Salivary Glands / physiology
  • Salivation / physiology*
  • Taste Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Xerostomia / physiopathology*