In a randomized control trial of the MighTeaFlow lozenge versus a placebo with just the sugar substitute xylitol, the green-tea extract lozenge increased saliva flow nearly fourfold, the study found.
“We were very, very surprised because it is unheard of,” said lozenge inventor Stephen Hsu, a researcher at GRU and the corresponding author on the study. Researchers went looking for similar results in other studies and found “none of them showed something even close to this,” he said.
The study, published online in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology, looked at 60 patients, but Hsu and lead author Dr. Scott De Rossi, chairman of the Department of Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences in the College of Dental Medicine at GRU, would like to see a bigger study.
For one thing, they would like to get samples of saliva glands before and after the treatment to see if the green tea extracts are actually restoring function to the glands, as they suspect. That was the case in the basic science and animal work Hsu did in looking at powerful chemicals in green tea, most notably epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG.
The lozenge is just one of several commercial products Hsu has helped develop to take advantage of powerful chemicals found in green tea.
“This is true translational research,” De Rossi said.
An estimated 40 percent of people in the U.S. will suffer chronic dry mouth at some point, often from medications they are taking such as in chemotherapy, or from diseases such as diabetes or an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the salivary glands.
EGCG and other green tea extracts seem to quiet the autoantigens that provoke the attack, and also seem to increase antioxidant activity, Hsu said.
The number of people estimated to have the problem is probably low because health professionals might not ask and people themselves might not realize they have the problem unless they are asked the right questions, De Rossi said.
“Do you have difficulty swallowing dry foods?” he said. “Are you constantly sipping water throughout the day? Those are sort of habitual things people do and they don’t even realize that maybe there is a problem.”
It is particularly acute among the elderly – an estimated 70 percent of people older than 65 have chronic dry mouth, De Rossi said.
“Mostly due to medications,” he said. “And we know we are becoming an older, sicker population, so we can expect those numbers to rise significantly.”