This paper summarises a series of studies already published in German and presents new data related to the aetiology of the 'dry mouth' and its associated problems. AIMS: To study factors affecting mucous and serous salivary gland secretion, the aetiology of the 'dry mouth' and its associated problems, causative factors for hyposalivation and it's treatment. SETTING: Two university dental hospitals. SUBJECTS: 587 denture wearers and 521 control subjects, and autopsy material. INTERVENTIONS: Exercise, chewing, water, oestrogen, pilocarpine, and anetholtrithion therapy, biopsy of the minor glands. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Palatal secretion (PAL, microL/cm2/min) and parotid salivary flow (PAR), subjective complaints and clinical findings. RESULTS: Resting flow rates for PAL between 0 and 65 microliters/cm2/min were seen in every age group. The flow rates of PAR (0 to 3.7 ml/10 min) were not correlated with PAL. Most patients with a resting flow rate of PAL < or = 6.0 microliters/cm2 suffer from a 'dry mouth' and Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) or oral dysaesthesia (OD) with or without chronic lesions of the oral mucosa. Etiological factors for the incidence of reduced PAL and associated problems include xerostomic drugs, oestrogen deficiency, radiotherapy, thyroid dysfunction, smoking or continuous wearing of complete upper dentures. PAL also correlated with the retention of upper complete dentures. PAL was correlated with the water content of epithelial tissues. PAL and PAR were both increased by drinking ample fluid, improving their circulation by physical exercises, chewing intensively, or taking oestrogens, pilocarpine, anetholtrithion. CONCLUSIONS: Variation in palatal salivary secretion occurs and is clinically important.