Melbourne, Australia—Medication-induced dry mouth isn’t just an unpleasant side effect for older adults. Lack of saliva can cause problems chewing, eating, swallowing, and talking, while also increasing the risk of tooth decay and oral infections, according to a recent study.

To provide more information about the link between medications and dry mouth in older adults, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society looked at 52 related studies, searching Medline, Embase, Cochrane, Web of Science, and PubMed from 1990 to 2016.

The research led by Monash University in Australia and the Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University in Sweden focused on patients aged 60 years and older who participated in intervention or observational studies investigating xerostomia or salivary gland hypofunction as adverse drug outcomes.

In the intervention studies, results indicate that drugs most significantly associated with dry mouth were:
• Urological medications (odds ratio [OR] of 5.91),
• Antidepressants (OR of 4.74), and
• Psycholeptics (OR of 2.59).

The observational studies found even more types of medications significantly associated with xerostomia and salivary gland hypofunction, including diuretics used to treat hypertension, as well as insomnia drugs.

“Medication use was significantly associated with xerostomia and salivary gland hypofunction in older adults,” study authors conclude. “The risk of dry mouth was greatest for drugs used for urinary incontinence. Future research should develop a risk score for medication-induced dry mouth to assist with prescribing and medication management.”

Researchers urged pharmacists and other healthcare providers to monitor and review all medications to identify potential side effects and to adjust doses or change medications when necessary to avoid adverse effects from dry mouth in the elderly.