Maintaining the oral health of patients with salivary gland dysfunction or hypofunction can be challenging for dental practitioners and patients.
These patients commonly complain of xerostomia, the subjective sensation of dry mouth, which can cause considerable distress.
In addition, patients with insufficient saliva may also suffer from increased risk of oral infections, a higher rate of caries, increased dental expenses and decreased quality of life.
Decreased salivary flow most commonly occurs as an adverse effect of medications, but is also associated with head and neck radiation, psychological affective disorders, systemic diseases, including diabetes, and HIV infection, and less frequently with graft-versus-host disease.
► See also: ORAL SURGERY : Treatment of actinic cheilitis by surgical vermilionectomy
It can also occur as part of autoimmune disorders, including lupus, scleroderma and Sjögren syndrome.
Functions of saliva include the development of dental pellicle, a film that forms on tooth enamel and protects against mineral loss from the tooth surface; replenishment of tooth surface minerals such as calcium and phosphate; the provision of antibacterial activity and buffering activity, which keeps oral pH neutral; and mechanical removal of residual food particles from the teeth.
° Nan Su, BScH; Cindy L. Marek, PharmD, FACA; Victor Ching, BScH; Miriam Grushka, MSc, DDS, PhD, Dip ABOM, Dip ABOP
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