Simple exercises improve oral function in older adults, and chewing gum exercises were most effective for improving mastication, the authors of a new study have found.

Investigators evaluated the long-term effects of simple oral exercise and chewing gum exercise on mastication, salivation, and swallowing function in 96 adults aged 65 and older.

The intervention lasted eight weeks, followed by a three-week maintenance period. Participants were evaluated on the Mixing Ability Index (chewing test), occlusal force, unstimulated saliva, and repetitive saliva swallowing tests at points throughout an eight-week study period. This was followed by a three-week maintenance period, and a discomfort re-evaluation.

At eight weeks, improvements on all measures were seen in both the simple exercise and gum exercise groups when compared to a control group. Members of both groups were re-categorized as having good swallowing function, at 27% and 18%, respectively. In addition, the chewing gum exercise group’s score on the Mixing Ability Index was four times higher than that of the control group.

“As general and oral health are closely interrelated,” the researchers concluded, “promoting oral health may extend a healthy life expectancy.” 

The study was published online in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.