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Xerostomia and salivary hypofunction in vulnerable elders: prevalence and etiology

      Objective

      The goal of this article is to review existing research on the prevalence and etiology of dry mouth in the vulnerable elders and identify knowledge gaps.

      Study Design

      Vulnerable elders (VE) are persons aged >65 years who have any or all of the following: limited mobility, limited resources, or complex health status. A systematic search was conducted of PubMed sources from 1989 to May 2010. Evidence was evaluated on the prevalence and etiology of xerostomia and salivary gland hypofunction (SGH) in VE.

      Results

      The search identified 1,422 publications. The inclusion/exclusion criteria yielded 348 articles, 80 of which are cited herein.

      Conclusions

      Research has showed a high prevalence of xerostomia and SGH in VE. Common etiologies include medications, poor general health, female gender, and age. Gaps still exist in the evaluation of dry mouth in VE. Nonetheless, oral dryness will remain an important health issue as life expectancy increases.
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