Hyposalivation and xerostomia in dentate older adults

R. Constance Wiener, Bei Wu, Richard Crout, Michael Wiener, Brenda Plassman, Elizabeth Kao, Daniel McNeil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Older adults are susceptible to reduced saliva production related to certain medications, radiation and chronic conditions. Many of these people have many physical and oral health problems and limited access to dental care. The use of effective screening tools for xerostomia and hyposalivation would be helpful in identifying those at risk. The authors conducted a study to investigate the association between three measures of oral dryness: hyposalivation (low unstimulated salivary flow), self-reported xerostomia and clinically assessed dry mouth. Methods. The authors included a convenience sample of 252 nondemented and dentate West Virginia participants 70 years and older who were part of a larger study on oral health and cognition among older adults. Participants completed a self-reported xerostomia index, provided an unstipulated salivary sample and underwent an oral assessment for the study. Results. Twenty-eight participants (11.1 percent) had hyposalivation, eight of whom reported having xerostomia (sensitivity = 28.6 percent). Of the 43 participants who reported having xerostomia, only eight had hyposalivation (positive predictive value = 18.6 percent). Hyposalivation and self-reported xerostomia were not significantly related. Clinically assessed dry mouth correlated modestly, but significantly, with hyposalivation and self-reported xerostomia. Conclusions. Obtaining routine unstimulated salivary flow rates in addition to self-reported information and oral evaluations may increase early detection of oral dryness, which would assist in implementing early interventions to improve patients' quality of life. Clinical Implications. Visually inspecting oral tissues for dryness and asking a patient if his or her mouth is dry are insufficient measures for clinicians to use to determine if the patient has hyposalivation. The authors recommend that clinicians determine the patient's unstimulated salivary flow rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-284
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Geriatrics
  • Salivary flow
  • Xerostomia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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