Aim: Elderly individuals face the risk of reductions in saliva secretion and occlusal force caused by systemic diseases or medications that can eventually result in malnutrition and systemic complications. We tested the hypothesis that regular gum chewing exercises (GCE) would enhance saliva secretion and occlusal force in an elderly population. Methods: A total of 12 community-dwelling elderly individuals (3 men and 9 women) participated in this study after providing informed consent. Participants carried out GCE regimens using a soft gum (GCE-S) or hard gum (GCE-H) for 2 weeks each, with a 2-week rest period between trials. Mucosal moisture on the tongue surface, resting saliva, and occlusal force were measured before and after each test gum, and changes in parameters at relevant time-points were statistically analyzed. Differences in each measurement item were assessed using the Friedman test for before and after the GCE. We used the Holm's correction for multiple comparisons if the Friedman test results were significant. The critical value for rejecting the null hypothesis was set at P < 0.05. Results: Resting saliva secretion significantly increased after GCE-S, returned to baseline levels during the rest period and significantly increased again after GCE-H. Mucosal moisture and occlusal force followed a similar trend, with a significant rise after GCE-H. Conclusions: The results of the present study suggest that GCE can increase resting saliva secretion and occlusal force in elderly individuals. Further investigations are required on the appropriate use of soft and hard gums to address oral frailty in elderly individuals. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2017; 17: 48–53.
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