Can a Miracle Cure Prevent Elderly People from Developing Xerostomia?

A recent study entitled, “Xerostomia in 75–85-year-olds: A longitudinal population study” investigated xerostomia in a group of 75-85 year-olds and concluded that dry mouth significantly increases with age. But are there any miracle cures that can prevent this? Let’s look more closely.


The recent study, carried out by researchers in Norway, Sweden, and Kuwait, discussed the challenge posed by the growing elderly population: as the number of elderly people increases, societies must attend to their wellbeing. In fact, the UN declared the 2020s the “Decade of Health Aging” to address the need for more knowledge about the elderly population and a multi-disciplinary approach in the action required to meet their needs, including oral health. 


To talk statistics: In 1990, people aged 65 and above represented 6% of the global population. In 2019, that number increased to 9%. It’s expected that by 2050, people aged 65 and above will make up approximately 16% of the population (about 1.5 billion people). 


Within the 65+ population, those who are 80 and above increased three times between 1990 and 2019. That number is expected to triple again by 2050, which will amount to about 426 million people. 


The growing number of older people means that society as a whole, especially medical establishments, must care for their quality of life. 


What is Xerostomia and Why Does it Increase with Age?

Xerostomia, self-reported dry mouth, is when the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva, and people experience a variety of symptoms. These typically include:

  • Dryness of the mouth and/or nose
  • Dry, cracked, or red lips and/or tongue
  • Increased thirst
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Dry, cracked, or red lips and/or tongue
  • Recurring mouth or throat infections
  • Bad breath
  • Trouble wearing dentures
  • Pervasive tooth decay


Cancer treatments, diseases, medications, and combinations of medications can all cause xerostomia. While this study has not concluded that aging causes xerostomia, it has concluded that xerostomia increases with age. The reason for this, however, has not been attributed solely to aging, but could be due to the above-mentioned causes: cancer treatments and medications, which typically increase with age.


The combination of the increasing aging population and the rising prevalence of xerostomia are key drivers of the continuous growth of market revenue of products to treat xerostomia.


Study Details: How Swedish Researchers Measured the Incidence of Xerostomia in 75 and 85-year-olds

Researchers in Sweden sent out a first questionnaire in 2007 to a group of 75-year-olds (born in the year 1932) in two Swedish counties and repeated the survey in 2017 to the same group, who were now 85-year-olds. 

  • Response rates at age 75: 71.9%
  • Response rates at age 85: 60.8%


The researchers constructed a “panel” of those who participated in both surveys, which included 1701 participants: 931 women and 770 men. 


The questionnaires included general questions about age, gender, socio-economic factors, and general health questions including height, weight, doctor visits, use of tobacco, and medications. They also included specific questions about oral health, satisfaction with teeth/dental appearance, and oral functions like chewing function, total number of teeth, types of fillings, crowns, and dentures.


Questions about self-reported dry mouth included four options: 

  • Yes, often
  • Yes, sometimes
  • No, seldom
  • No


Findings included:

  • At age 85, the number of people who ticked “Yes, often” nearly doubled compared to those at age 75. At age 75, 6.2% of responders reported “Yes, often” for xerostomia. At age 85, that number rose to 11.3%.
  • Frequent daytime xerostomia was reported twice as much by women than men at ages 75 and 85.
  • Xerostomia was more common at night than day, and increased with age — 23.4% of 85-year-olds and 18.5% of 75-year-olds reported “Yes, often” at night. At night, xerostomia was also more common in women. 


In summary, the survey found that overall xerostomia increased significantly from age 75 to 85 years.


What Miracle Cures Can Prevent Dry Mouth from Increasing with Age?

Unfortunately, there are no miracle cures that can prevent dry mouth, though study researchers observed several protective factors for NOT developing dry mouth during the 10-year observation period or not reporting dry mouth at age 85. The protective factors, observed at age 75, included:

  • Good general and oral health
  • Absence of medications and intraoral symptoms
  • Chewing function
  • Social interaction


These factors, however, are not treatments, but merely the reality of the observed 75-year-olds who did not develop dry mouth 10 years later. 


One important note the researchers made regarding medications is that the questionnaire only recorded usage over the past 14 days with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. They said the study would have been better if they recorded “the number and nature of medications as well the number of chronic diseases in each of the subjects as both of these may contribute substantially to the presence of xerostomia.”


In conclusion, the researchers recommended the integration of dentistry, medical healthcare, and social welfare systems to effectively address the issue of xerostomia among the elderly.


What Dry Mouth Therapy Options Are Available for Elderly People Who Don’t Have “Protective Factors?” 

There are several available dry mouth treatments available for people of all ages, including:

  • Saliwell’s SaliPen, an FDA-approved oral electrostimulation device designed to increase the body’s production of saliva.
  • Medication: While some medications cause dry mouth, others are designed to increase the body’s production of saliva. 
  • Lozenges, mouthwash, chewing gum, which can be prescription or OTC.
  • Lifestyle changes: Drinking more water every day, breathing through your nose at night, cutting back on caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, and using a humidifier at night.


If you’re interested in learning more about the SaliPen, visit our product page or contact us here



Does xerostomia increase with age?

Yes, a recent longitudinal study in Sweden found there was a significant increase in xerostomia between a group of 75-year-olds and a group of 85-year-olds. 


Is the global elderly population increasing?

Yes, the elderly population in 2019 was 9% of the global population. In 1990, it was only 6%.


What factors are considered “protective” against developing xerostomia as you age?

According to the longitudinal study, several protective factors were observed in 75-year-olds who did NOT go on to develop dry mouth at age 85. These factors include:

  • Good general and oral health
  • Absence of medications and intraoral symptoms
  • Chewing function
  • Social interaction


What are the best xerostomia remedies for the elderly population?

Electrostimulation, medication, lozenges, mouthwash, chewing gum, and lifestyle changes are all viable dry mouth therapy options for people of all ages.


Is there a miracle cure for dry mouth?

There is no cure, miracle or other, for dry mouth at this point, but there are several treatments, as described above. 


Does electrostimulation hurt?

No, electrostimulation is not painful. It delivers small pulses into the mouth and is a good choice for non-invasive, non-pharmacological xerostomia treatment. 


Do I need a doctor to perform electrostimulation?

No! While you may want a doctor to show you how to use the SaliPen the first time, it’s not necessary and we have detailed instructions and a user manual here. The SaliPen is designed to be used at home.