Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Simple exercise found to improve oral function in the elderly

SEOUL, South Korea: Older adults frequently experience decreased salivation and xerostomia, which may lead to oral soft-tissue disease, dental caries, periodontal disease and oral candidiasis. Although masticatory and swallowing functions are closely linked to overall health, nutritional status and quality of life, chemical agents used to treat dry mouth may cause side effects and often require a prescription. In a new study, researchers have improved oral function in the elderly by performing a simple oral stretching and exercise technique.

According to the researchers, conventional oral exercises performed in previous studies were impractical for continuous use in the elderly owing to the extended duration needed for positive treatment outcomes. The present study used a simple oral exercise (SOE), which included lip stretching, tongue stretching, cheek stretching, masticatory muscle exercise and swallowing movements to reduce performance time and to determine the short-term effects of the SOE.

In the course of the study, 84 participants aged 65 years and older performed the SOE twice a day for one week after receiving instructions from a trained dental hygienist. The researchers evaluated the participants’ masticatory performance by using the mixing ability index (MAI). Additionally, they 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 each of these four measurements, participants were dichotomised into two groups with good and poor oral health conditions.

The data showed that the mean MAI increased by 6 per cent immediately after the intervention and by 16 per cent in the poor-chewing group. Similarly, the amount of unstimulated saliva increased by 0.1 ml/min immediately after the SOE and by 29 per cent in the poor-salivation group. The degree of tongue moisture increased by 3 per cent and was maintained, according to the researchers. In the poor-swallowing group, 25 per cent and 40 per cent of the participants were upgraded to the good-swallowing group immediately after the intervention, as well as after one week of intervention, respectively. Finally, the participants experienced less discomfort as their oral function improved.

The study, titled “Improvements in oral functions of elderly after simple oral exercise”, was published online on 16 May 2019 in Clinical Interventions in Aging.

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