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Salivary secretion in health and disease

Journal article
Authors A. M. L. Pedersen
C. E. Sorensen
G. B. Proctor
G. H. Carpenter
Jörgen Ekström
Published in J Oral Rehabil
Volume 45
Issue 9
Pages 730-746
ISSN 0305-182X
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Pharmacology
Pages 730-746
Language en
Keywords autonomic nervous system, saliva, salivary dysfunction, salivary glands, xerostomia, oral medicine vi, primary sjogrens-syndrome, gland flow-rates, pilocarpine-induced salivation, epithelial sodium-channels, human, submandibular saliva, stimulated whole saliva, human parotid-saliva, different age-groups, quality-of-life, Dentistry, Oral Surgery & Medicine, bak la, 1995, annual review of physiology, v57, p547
Subject categories Pharmacology and Toxicology


Saliva is a complex fluid produced by 3 pairs of major salivary glands and by hundreds of minor salivary glands. It comprises a large variety of constituents and physicochemical properties, which are important for the maintenance of oral health. Saliva not only protects the teeth and the oropharyngeal mucosa, it also facilitates articulation of speech, and is imperative for mastication and swallowing. Furthermore, saliva plays an important role in maintaining a balanced microbiota. Thus, the multiple functions provided by saliva are essential for proper protection and functioning of the body as a whole and for the general health. A large number of diseases and medications can affect salivary secretion through different mechanisms, leading to salivary gland dysfunction and associated oral problems, including xerostomia, dental caries and fungal infections. The first part of this review article provides an updated insight into our understanding of salivary gland structure, the neural regulation of salivary gland secretion, the mechanisms underlying the formation of saliva, the various functions of saliva and factors that influence salivary secretion under normal physiological conditions. The second part focuses on how various diseases and medical treatment including commonly prescribed medications and cancer therapies can affect salivary gland structure and function. We also provide a brief insight into how to diagnose salivary gland dysfunction.

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