Time Out for Dry Mouth

Submandibular gland treatment helps treat xerostomia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) During the throes of a cancer battle, preserving healthy saliva glands may be on the back burner for most cancer patients, but the long-lasting effects of dry mouth can create problems with sleeping, eating and socializing for patients in remission.

Radiation therapy used in treating mouth and throat cancers can cause salivary glands to stop working. Researchers at the University of Alberta found that submandibular gland transfer is an effective therapy to minimize dry mouth symptoms.

"Head and neck cancer patients should ask their doctor about submandibular gland transfer therapy."

University of Alberta researcher Jana Rieger commented on the need for saliva to keep mouths healthy. Study looked at functional outcomes—speech changes, swallowing habits and the quality of life of patients with mouth and throat cancers .

People can lose teeth, proper denture fit and ability to swallow. Speaking can also be dramatically altered.

Rieger continued that post-radiation cancer patients need to swallow more. Trouble swallowing leads to trouble eating, which could lead to nutritional compromise.

Rieger found that the quality of life for most patients decreased unacceptably. People suffering from xerostomia aren't comfortable eating out and socializing, and some get depressed.

Procedure co-innovator Hadi Seikaly of the University of Alberta explained that the submandibular gland transfer involves moving the saliva gland from under the angle of the jaw to under to the chin.

Prior to this procedure, the saliva gland was in direct line of the radiation. Dry mouth is the most common complaint post radiation. 

The Study

  • Group one: Patients underwent the submandibular gland transfer
  • Group two: Patients took the oral drug salagen.
  • Both groups had the same speaking results
  • Main difference: Group taking the drug had more difficulty swallowing
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Review Date: 
May 17, 2011
Last Updated:
May 20, 2011