Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule with multiple effects on different tissues. NO takes important roles in vasodilatation, bacterial challenge and cytokine Stimulation, regulation of mineralized tissue function, neurotransmission, and platelet aggregation, etc. However, under pathological conditions, NO has damaging effects. NO is synthesized by NO synthases (NOS) and inducible isoform of NOS (iNOS) is closely related to the pathophysiological characteristics of inflammatory diseases such as periodontal diseases. The expression of iNOS has been investigated in salivary gland-related diseases, temporomandibular joint disorders and oral cancer as well. The beneficial and damaging effects of NO in diseases related with periodontal, dental and maxillofacial area are discussed in this review. The biological pathways involved with NO and NO inhibitors may be good drug targets to have a role in the future management of patients with diseases in orofacial region. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.