Aims: To investigate the efficacy of applying auricular acupuncture (AA) 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 AA 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 AA 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 AA group had higher objective oral saliva flow than the control group (B = 4.73, p <.001). Conclusion: AA is an effective non-pharmacological method for improving subjective symptoms of dry mouth and objective saliva secretion in older populations living in nursing homes. Relevant to clinical practice: Performing regular AA on the Shenmen, Point Zero and Salivary Gland 2-prime auricular points can be considered an alternative treatment approach to improve dry mouth in institution-dwelling older adults.
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