The Effects of Ethanol on Salivary Glands
This chapter reviews the literature concerning the effects of ethanol on salivary gland function. The main control of salivary secretion is exerted by nerves; the glands have a rich supply from both divisions of the autonomic nervous system. The neurotransmitters released from nerves act on a variety of receptors and secretion can be evoked by a number of autonomimetics and blocked by specific antagonists. The acute effects of ethanol on salivary function have been little studied in human subjects. Ethanol can stimulate a moderate flow of parotid saliva possibly due to an irritant effect. The salivary concentrations of sodium and potassium suggested hyperfunction of ductal cells, which the authors speculated may have been due to increases in circulating aldosterone in these patients as a result of liver cirrhosis. Animal studies provide an opportunity to take a more controlled look at the effects of ethanol on salivary function and to examine possible mechanisms by which these effects are exerted.