Older adults frequently experience increased dry mouth, which may lead to oral soft-tissue disease, dental caries and gum disease. Chemical agents used to treat dry mouth can cause side effects and often require a prescription. In a new study, researchers have improved oral function in the elderly by having participants perform a simple oral stretching and exercise technique.
The study used a simple oral exercise (SOE), which included lip stretching, tongue stretching, cheek stretching, chewing muscle exercise and swallowing movements to reduce performance time.
A total of 84 participants aged 65 years and older performed the SOE twice a day for one week after receiving instruction from a dental hygienist. The researchers evaluated the participants’ masticatory performance by using the mixing ability index (MAI). Before the participants undertook the SOE, researchers assessed the unstimulated saliva and the moisture levels of the tongue and buccal mucosa and performed the repetitive saliva swallowing test. On the basis of these measurements, participants were divided into two groups: “good”; and, “poor” oral health condition.
The data showed that the mean MAI increased by 6% immediately after the intervention and by 16% in the poor-chewing group. The amount of unstimulated saliva increased by 0.1ml/min after the SOE and by 29% in the poor-salivation group. The degree of tongue moisture increased by 3% and was maintained, according to the researchers. In the poor-swallowing group, 65% of the participants were upgraded to the good-swallowing group. The study was published online in Clinical Interventions in Aging.