Mean salivary secretion and bite force decrease with advancing age. Previous studies have shown that salivary flow rates are influenced by mastication. In the present study, we examined the relationship between salivary flow rates and maximal bite force in a community-based sample of men and women 35 years of age or older. Salivary flow rates for unstimulated whole and unstimulated submandibular/sublingual (SMSL) saliva as well as citrate-stimulated parotid and SMSL saliva were measured in 399 subjects. Bite force was assessed with a bilateral force transducer. Pearson correlation analysis yielded significant positive correlations between bite force and flow rates for unstimulated whole saliva (r = 0.24, p < 0.0001), stimulated parotid saliva (r = 0.13, p < 0.03), unstimulated SMSL (r = 0.14, p < 0.0001), and stimulated SMSL (r = 0.16, p < 0.003). When adjusted for age and gender, the partial correlations between bite force and salivary flow rates remained significant for unstimulated whole saliva (r = 0.10, p < 0.05), stimulated parotid saliva (r = 0.13, p < 0.02), and stimulated SMSL saliva (r = 0.14, p < 0.006). Subjects were divided into four groups based on their maximal bite force score (low, medium low, medium high, and high). For each saliva type, the flow rate of the high-bite-force group was significantly greater than that of the low-bite-force group as well as that of the medium-high-bite-force group. These results confirm an age-related decrease in bite force and salivary flow rates and show that, regardless of age or gender, bite force is correlated with salivary flow.
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