A simple exercise that can improve oral function in the elderly.
SEOUL, South Korea: Common symptoms frequently experienced by older adults include decreased salivation and xerostomia, which may lead to oral soft-tissue disease, dental caries, periodontal disease and oral candidiasis. It’s well known that masticatory and swallowing functions are closely linked to overall health, nutritional status and quality of life. At the same time, chemical agents used to treat dry mouth not only require a prescription, but may also cause side effects. A new study has shown improved oral function in the elderly, who perform a simple oral stretching and exercise technique.
Previous studies had shown that the conventional oral exercises were impractical for continuous use in the elderly owing to the extended duration needed for positive treatment outcomes. The present study tried 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.
The current study involved 84 participants aged 65 years and older, who performed the SOE twice a day for one week after receiving instructions from a trained dental hygienist. The study evaluated the participants’ masticatory performance by using the mixing ability index (MAI). Also, they assessed the unstimulated saliva and the moisture levels of the tongue and buccal mucosa and performed the repetitive saliva swallowing test. Based on these four measurements, participants were divided into two groups with good and poor oral health conditions.
The data showed a 6% increase in the mean MAI immediately after the intervention and a 16 % increase in the poor-chewing group. Similarly, a 0.1 ml/min rise in the amount of unstimulated saliva immediately after the SOE and 29 % rise in the poor-salivation group. Also, a 3 % rise in the degree of tongue moisture was reported. In the poor-swallowing group, 25 % of the participants were upgraded to the good-swallowing group immediately after the intervention, and 40 % of them after one week of intervention. Finally, the participants reported reduced 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.