Aims: To investigate the efficacy of applying auricular acupuncture treatment in improving dry mouth in institution-dwelling older adults.
Background: Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a common distressing problem in older populations, especially for institution-dwelling older adults that can affect oral health and quality of life.
Design: A randomised controlled trial was conducted from December 2020 to March 2021 and performed according to STRICTA guidelines extended from the CONSORT statement.
Methods: Older adults aged more than 65 years were randomly allocated to an auricular acupuncture group (n = 37) with an 8-week actual auricular points treatment or a control group (n = 38) receiving sham auricular point acupuncture. Measurements comprised a subjective assessment of the level of dry mouth as assessed by a visual analogue scale in a xerostomia questionnaire, and an objective assessment of the physiological wetness of the lingual mucosa measured with a moisture-checking device. A generalised estimating equation model was used for data analyses.
Results: After completing an 8-week auricular acupuncture intervention stimulating the Shenmen, Point Zero and Salivary Gland 2-prime points, the AA group exhibited significantly improved subjective symptoms of dry mouth comprised of difficulty speaking (B = -6.47, p < .001), difficulty swallowing (B = -6.73, p < .001), the amount of oral saliva (B = -5.38, p < .001), a dry throat (B = -7.53, p < .001) and thirst (B = -8.06, p < .001) compared with the control group. Moreover, the auricular acupuncture group had higher objective oral saliva flow than the control group (B = 4.73, p < .001).
Conclusion: Auricular acupuncture is an effective non-pharmacological method for improving subjective symptoms of dry mouth and objective saliva secretion in older populations living in nursing homes.