Abstract: Dry mouth sensation, also known as
xerostomia, is a common clinical problem with an
increasing prevalence. Although recent studies have
reported promissory results of malic acid, none have
evaluated the impact of malic acid on the oral health-
related quality of life (OHRQoL) of patients with
xerostomia. Thus, this study aimed to evaluate the
impact of 1% malic acid, combined with uoride and
xylitol, on the OHRQoL of patients with xerostomia.
We enrolled 70 patients and randomly allocated them
into two groups: the intervention group (applied
topical sialogogue with 1% malic acid) and the control
group (applied a placebo). We assessed the OHRQoL
and severity of xerostomia before and after treatment
with the Spanish version of the Oral Health Impact
Prole-14 questionnaire (OHIP-14sp) and a visual
analogue scale (VAS), respectively. In addition, stimu-
lated and non-stimulated salivary ow rates before
and after treatments were also measured. In total, 60
patients completed the study. According to the VAS,
both sprays signicantly improved dry mouth sensa-
tion (P < 0.001). However, OHIP-14sp total scores
decreased signicantly in the intervention group from
20.8 ± 10.4 to 16.5 ± 9.5 (P < 0.001), indicating an
improvement in the OHRQoL. No signicant differ-
ences were observed in the control group (P > 0.05).
Furthermore, non-stimulated salivary ow rates
signicantly increased in the intervention group from
0.25 ± 0.22 to 0.33 ± 0.33 mL/min (P < 0.001). Overall,
this study demonstrated that malic acid improves the
OHRQoL and dry mouth sensation in patients with
Keywords: xerostomia; dry mouth; malic acid; oral
health-related quality of life.
Saliva is an essential uid in the human body for the
maintenance of oral tissues and oral health. Alterations in
the amount or quality of saliva induce several changes in
the oral cavity, including predisposition to caries, infec-
tions, altered taste, halitosis, dysphagia, dysarthria, lack
of retention of dentures, and dry mouth sensation (1,2).
Dry mouth sensation, or xerostomia, is a subjective
symptom characterized by a decline in the salivary
ow rate or alteration in the chemical composition of
saliva (3). Xerostomia is a common clinical problem,
with an increasing prevalence; the estimated prevalence
is 0.9-64.8% (4,5). Xerostomia can be a symptom of
various disorders and can be attributed to several causes
such as medications, head and neck radiotherapy, chemo-
therapy, Sjögren’s syndrome, and psychological illness
(5-8). Despite its cause, xerostomia has been reported
to adversely affect the oral health-related quality of
life (OHRQoL) (5,9-11). Willumsen et al. reported that
xerostomia affects the quality of life by interfering with
speech, taste, and mood (12). Moreover, patients with
dry mouth are prone to having dental caries, periodontal
Journal of Oral Science, Vol. 60, No. 2, 278-284, 2018
Impact of 1% malic acid spray on the oral health-related
quality of life of patients with xerostomia
Sven Niklander, Flavio Fuentes, Daniela Sanchez, Verónica Araya, Giuliana Chiappini,
René Martinez, and Maureen Marshall
Department of Oral Pathology and Oral Surgery, Dentistry Faculty, Andres Bello University,
Viña del Mar, Chile
(Received April 20, 2017; Accepted September 14, 2017)
Correspondence to Dr. Sven Niklander, Department of Oral
Pathology and Oral Surgery, Dentistry Faculty, Andres Bello
University, Av. Valparaiso #1560, Viña del Mar, Chile
Color gures can be viewed in the online issue at J-STAGE.
disease, and burning sensation, also contributing to the
deterioration of the OHRQoL (13).
Because therapies for xerostomia are highly variable,
treatment must be selected according to the cause and
severity of dry mouth. Although topical agents are the
most prevalent treatment options, as they relieve symp-
toms with no or little side effects, no substantial evidence
proves their efcacy in relieving the dry mouth sensation
(14). Acidic substances, such as malic and citric acid,
have been used as salivary stimulants, but their use has
been discontinued because of their demineralizing effect
(13). Several studies have demonstrated that 1% malic
acid, in combination with xylitol and uoride, exerts no
or little effect on tooth demineralization and maintains
its properties as a salivary stimulant (15). In fact, recent
studies have demonstrated promissory results of 1%
malic acid; they have reported an increase in salivary
ow and a reduction in dry mouth sensation (16-18).
Nevertheless, none of these studies have evaluated the
impact of 1% malic acid on the OHRQoL in patients with
The present study aimed to investigate the impact of
a topical sialogogue spray containing 1% malic acid,
combined with uoride and xylitol (Xeros Dentaid
Spray; Dentaid, Barcelona, Spain), on the OHRQoL of
patients with xerostomia.
Materials and Methods
Participants and study design
In this study, we enrolled 70 patients with xerostomia
who attended a dental clinic of the Dentistry Faculty of
Andres Bello University (Viña del Mar, Chile) between
2014 and 2015. This study was approved by the Ethical
and Scientic Committee of the Dentistry Faculty of
Andres Bello University (approval number 026, 2014).
This research was conducted in full accordance with the
World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki. The
study was designed as a double-blind randomized clinical
trial according to the guidelines established by The
CONSORT Statement (http://www.consort-statement.
We randomly distributed patients with xerostomia into
two groups of 35 and 35 individuals (treatment and control
group, respectively), which were balanced in terms of
age and salivary ow rates (Fig. 1). Randomization was
performed by an investigator not involved in this study
through a specic webpage (http://www.randomization.
com/) using the method of randomly permuted blocks,
setting 35 subjects per block and two labels, A and B, for
the intervention and control group, respectively. More-
over, randomization was kept in a sealed envelope in an
unknown place for examiners till the end of the study.
The inclusion criteria in this study were that participants
had to be over 18 years and have dry mouth according to
Assessed for eligibility (n= 96)
Excluded (n= 26)
- Not meeting inclusion criteria (n= 26)
- Declined to participate (n= 0)
- Other reasons (n= 0)
Analyzed (n= 31)
- Excluded from the analysis (n= 0)
Lost to follow-up (n= 4)
Lack of time and commitment with the study
Discontinued intervention (n= 0)
Allocated to the intervention group (n= 35)
- Received allocated intervention (n= 35)
- Did not receive allocated intervention (n= 0)
Lost to follow-up (n= 5)
Lack of time and commitment with the study
Discontinued intervention (n= 1)
Rise in blood pressure associated with the spray
Allocated to the control group (n= 35)
- Received allocated intervention (n=35)
- Did not receive allocated intervention (n= 0)
Analyzed (n= 29)
- Excluded from the analysis (n= 0)
Randomized (n= 70)
Fig. 1 Study CONSORT owchart.
a previously established question (see measurements). In
contrast, patients who have had topical or systemic treat-
ment for xerostomia in the last 3 months or had history
of head and neck radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and/or
any systemic disease reported to produce hyposaliva-
tion (Sjögren’s syndrome, scleroderma, hepatitis C,
HIV, sarcoidosis, rheumatoid arthritis, polyarteritis
nodosa, systemic sclerosis, or lupus erythematosus) were
excluded from this study.
We obtained written informed consent from all eligible
individuals who agreed to participate in this study.
Furthermore, data were collected by personal interviews
and clinical examination, which were conducted at the
dental clinic and were recorded in a specially designed
Sample size calculation
We calculated the sample size using Stata software v11.2
and the sample size tool (StataCorp LP, College Station,
TX, USA). We set the signicance level and power
of the study at 5% and 95%, respectively. Proportions
were obtained per Gomez et al. (17,18). Based on these
settings, the minimum sample size required was 15
patients for each group.
In the intervention group, patients received a topical
spray comprising 1% malic acid, 10% xylitol, and 0.05%
sodium uoride (Xeros Dentaid Spray; Dentaid). In the
control group, patients received a placebo topical spray
comprising 10% xylitol and 0.05% sodium uoride.
Each formulation was placed into identical opaque asks
and labeled according to randomization by personnel
unrelated to this study. Patients in both groups were
instructed to use the spray on demand for 2 weeks, with
a maximum of eight applications per day and record the
daily number of applications in a diary. We controlled
patients during that period to ensure correct use and
resolve possible problems with the sprays. Furthermore,
patients were advised to interrupt the treatment and call
investigators in case they felt insecure or experienced
unpleasant symptoms upon the use of the solutions.
We assessed the presence of xerostomia with the following
question, as reported elsewhere (19): “How often do you
feel that your mouth is dry?”. Participants could select
from the following answers: “never”, “sometimes”,
“usually”, or “always”. Those who answered “usually”
or “always” were considered to have xerostomia (19).
The severity of xerostomia was assessed using the
visual analogue scale (VAS), which comprised a 10-cm
horizontal line with a “0” and “10” marked on each
extreme. A score of 0 indicated “no xerostomia” and 10
indicated the “worst imaginable xerostomia”. All patients
were asked to draw a vertical line perpendicular to this
horizontal line to reect their symptom severity. We
evaluated and recorded the distance between the vertical
line and the zero extreme to obtain the VAS score for
each patient (20).
Evaluation of impact on the quality of life
The OHRQoL was assessed using the Spanish version
of the Oral Health Impact Prole-14 questionnaire
(OHIP-14sp) before and after the treatment. OHIP-14 is
a 14-item questionnaire designed to assess self-reported
functional limitation, discomfort, and disability attributed
to oral conditions. Despite being a short questionnaire,
the OHIP-14sp has been proven to be reliable, sensitive
to changes, and have adequate cross-cultural consistency
(21). We evaluated the OHIP-14sp according to the
following dimensions: functional limitation, physical
pain, psychological discomfort, physical incapacity,
psychological incapacity, social incapacity, and social
disadvantage. The answers were assessed using a Likert-
type evaluation scale with ve points as follows: never =
0; rarely = 1; sometimes = 2; repeatedly = 3; and always
= 4. Of note, the OHIP-14sp scale ranges from 0 to 56.
The lowest scores represent a satisfactory perception of
an individual’s oral conditions and, therefore, a higher
satisfaction and better quality of life.
Salivary ow rate
We assessed stimulated and non-stimulated salivary
ow rates before and after treatment using the spitting
method. All patients were instructed to refrain from
eating, drinking, smoking, and oral hygiene procedures
for a minimum of 60 min before the procedure. Samples
were collected in the morning hours, between 9:30 and
11:30 am, always in the same room under similar room
temperatures. The collection time for stimulated and
non-stimulated whole salivary ow was 5 min. First,
non-stimulated whole saliva was collected. Patients were
instructed to spit into a tube for 5 min, and the amount
of saliva was measured using a graduated syringe. Then,
stimulated whole saliva was collected after a break of 3
min using the mastication method. Patients were asked to
chew a wax cube of 15 × 10 mm for 1 min at their own
pace and then to spit into a tube for 5 min. Wax residues
were eliminated using a lter paper before quantication
using a graduated syringe.
All saliva collections and further measurements in
this study were performed by three different exam-
iners. Thereafter, standardization and calibration were
performed among the examiners. Of note, Lin’s concor-
dance agreement was 0.97.
In this study, the primary outcome was to assess the
effect of 1% malic acid on the OHRQoL, dened as the
difference between the baseline total OHIP-14sp scores
and post-treatment total OHIP-14sp scores. Results were
expressed as mean ± standard deviations.
The secondary outcome was salivary ow stimulation,
dened as the difference between the stimulated and
non-stimulated salivary ows before and after treatment,
expressed as mL/min. Both primary and secondary
outcomes were measured 2 days after patients nished
the 2-week treatment, whether with the placebo or malic
acid spray (Xeros Dentaid Spray).
The data were analyzed using Microsoft Excel v.2007
(Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA, USA) and
R-Cran 3.1.1. (The R Foundation, Vienna, Austria).
For independent and related samples, we used the
Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Wilcoxon signed-rank test,
respectively. P < 0.05 was considered statistically
signicant. Patients who did not complete the study were
excluded from the statistical analysis.
We enrolled 70 patients in this study who were randomly
allocated to the intervention and control groups. Ten
patients (control group, 6; intervention group, 4) did
not complete the study and were thus excluded from the
statistical analysis. Of these 10 patients, nine were lost to
follow-up because of the lack of time and commitment to
the study. The remaining patient (from the control group)
discontinued the intervention because he associated one
application of the placebo with a rise in blood pressure.
Hence, 60 patients completed this study (control group,
29; intervention group, 31; Fig. 1). No patient reported
any adverse effect. No signicant differences were
observed between the mean ages and group (P > 0.05) or
between gender and group (P > 0.05).
While xerostomia was correlated with drug use in
47 patients (78.3%), it was associated with idiopathic
causes in the remaining 13 patients (21.7%). The most
commonly used medications in this study were antihy-
pertensives, followed by antidepressants, anxiolytics,
antihistaminics, and hypoglycemic agents. Furthermore,
the average number of drugs consumed by patients with
drug-related xerostomia was 2.5.
Table 1 summarizes the mean ages, gender distribu-
tion, OHIP-14 score before and after treatment, VAS
score before and after treatment, and mean number of
applications in both groups. According to the VAS, both
sprays signicantly improved xerostomia (P < 0.001),
but only the spray containing 1% malic acid (Xeros
Dentaid Spray) signicantly improved the OHRQoL (P
< 0.001). The difference in the OHIP-14sp total score
pre-post treatment between the groups was statistically
signicant (P < 0.05). Patients in the intervention group
reported a decrease in all seven dimensions from the
OHIP-14sp after the treatment, with statistically signi-
cant differences for physical pain (P < 0.001), physical
incapacity (P < 0.05), and social disadvantage (P < 0.05;
Fig. 2). Conversely, patients in the control group had
no statistically signicant decrease in any of the dimen-
sions; in fact, three dimensions (physical pain, physical
Table 1 Age, gender, OHIP-14sp total score, VAS score and the mean number of applications
of both groups at baseline and 2 weeks after treatment
Variables Intervention group Control group
Sample size 31 29
Age (years) 54.6 ± 14.9 49.2 ± 14.9
Male 5 3
Female 26 26
OHIP-14sp total score
Baseline 20.8 ± 10.4 22.3 ± 12.2
Final (2 weeks after treatment) 16.5 ± 9.5* 22.6 ± 12.2
OHIP-14 difference 4.4 ± 8.2* − 0.2 ± 9.8
Baseline 56.6 ± 20.3 58.2 ± 21.5
Final 28.5 ± 22.0* 33.7 ± 18.3*
No. of daily applications 2.47 ± 1.54* 3.55 ± 1.72
*Statistically signicant results with P < 0.05.
discomfort, and physiological incapacity) registered an
increase, which was not statistically signicant (P > 0.05;
Furthermore, non-stimulated salivary ow rates
signicantly increased after the 2-week treatment in
the intervention group (P < 0.001). The control group,
however, revealed a small increase, which was not
statistically signicant (P > 0.05; Table 2). Although the
intervention group reported an increase in stimulated
salivary ow rates after the treatment, the difference was
not statistically signicant (P > 0.05; Table 2).
The most commonly used agents for the treatment of dry
mouth are salivary stimulants and/or substitutes. Never-
theless, not much evidence supports any treatment to be
more effective than the other (14,22). Hence, the selection
of the agent is primarily based on the clinical experi-
ence or by allowing patients to decide which one works
the best for them, which could be both expensive and
frustrating. Usually, topical treatments are preferred over
systemic treatments because of their fewer side effects,
easy administration, and acceptance by patients. The use
of topical salivary stimulants based on acidic substances,
such as citric, tartaric, or phosphoric acid, is not new;
however, their use has been questioned because of their
intrinsic erosive potential, which is contra-productive
in patients with reduced salivary ow (23,24), thereby
increasing the risk of caries (25). In contrast, the use of
weaker acid-based salivary stimulants, such as malic
acid, combined with uoride and xylitol, has been shown
to reduce the risk of lowering the salivary pH under the
hydroxyapatite critical level (5.5) when compared with
stronger acids (citric acid) having no impact on tooth
demineralization, even with relatively high concentra-
tions (4.7%) (15). Malic acid is an organic acid found
in fruits, such as pears and apples, and can be obtained
for commercial use by chemical synthesis (26). Malic
acid stimulates salivary ow by dissociating into H+
ions when mixed with water and becoming hydronium
ions (H3O+), leading to saliva secretion to neutralize the
acid formation (17). Recently, a new spray formula-
tion containing 1% malic acid, 10% xylitol, and 0.05%
uoride (Xeros Dentaid Spray) has been proven to be
clinically safe and efcient in reducing xerostomia and
increasing salivary ow rates in patients with dry mouth
secondary to drugs (16-18,27). Nevertheless, its ability
to improve the OHRQoL has not been investigated, and
Table 2 Stimulated and non-stimulated salivary ow rates at baseline and 2 weeks after
Intervention group Control group
Stimulated salivary ow rate
Baseline 1.30 ± 0.79 mL/min 1.45 ± 1.11 mL/min
Final (2 weeks after treatment) 1.48 ± 0.81 mL/min 1.36 ± 1.11 mL/min
Unstimulated salivary ow rate
Baseline 0.25 ± 0.22 mL/min 0.28 ± 0.28 mL/min
Final 0.33 ± 0.33 mL/min* 0.31 ± 0.30 mL/min
*Statistically signicant results with P < 0.05.
Fig. 2 OHIP-14sp scores per dimension for the intervention
group at baseline and 2 weeks after treatment. *Statistically
signicant results with P < 0.05.
Fig. 3 OHIP-14sp scores per dimension for the control group at
baseline and 2 weeks after treatment.
patient-centered outcome measures, such as the quality
of life, are considered as vital outcome measures in the
evaluation of any treatment or health-related intervention
(28,29). Hence, the present study assessed the effect of
1% malic acid on the OHRQoL.
When indicating treatment for xerostomia, it is crucial
to identify the underlying cause. If xerostomia is caused
by a disease that is known to destroy the salivary gland
acini (such as advanced cases of Sjögren’s syndrome
or post-head and neck radiotherapy), it is unlikely that
patients will benet from a salivary stimulant; in fact,
they are more likely to benet from a salivary substi-
tute. In this study, we only included patients in whom
xerostomia was associated with a specic type of drug or
idiopathic causes. In both cases, xerostomia is considered
to be reversible, as there is no glandular damage. Hence,
patients are likely to benet from a topical stimulant,
such as malic acid.
Plenty of evidence conrms that xerostomia negatively
affects the OHRQoL (5,10,30). Patients using a spray
containing 1% malic acid, 10% xylitol, and 0.05% uo-
ride (Xeros Dentaid Spray) demonstrated a statistically
signicant increase in their OHRQoL compared with that
in patients using the placebo. All seven dimensions from
the OHIP-14sp revealed an improvement in the interven-
tion group, with statistically signicant differences for
physical pain, physical incapacity, and social disadvan-
tage. Gerdin et al. (9) and Thomson et al. (30) reported
that physical pain and physical incapacity dimensions
exert a signicant impact on the OHRQoL of patients
with xerostomia, which is in accordance with our results.
When analyzing xerostomia with the VAS, both groups
reported statistically signicant improvement, which is
in discordance with the studies of Gomez-Moreno et al.
(17,27) who reported a statistically signicant difference
just for the malic acid group. This discordance can be
attributed to several reasons. One could be that xylitol
in the placebo group could have some salivary stimulant
activity because of its sweetness, acting as an “active
placebo” (18), thereby decreasing the severity of xero-
stomia without improving the OHRQoL. Söderling et
al. revealed that chewing gums with xylitol signicantly
increased the salivary ow rate compared to chewing
gums without xylitol, suggesting an independent effect
of xylitol on salivary ow (31). Nevertheless, Giertsen
et al. established no effect of xylitol or uoride on the
salivary ow rate (32). However, none of these authors
assessed the effect of xylitol on xerostomia itself. Another
explanation could be that patients from the control group
used the spray more signicantly than patients from the
intervention group, which can increase the placebo effect
because of the willingness of patients to improve their
clinical condition by using the treatment more often (18).
As reported earlier, an increase was noted in the
non-stimulated salivary ow rates (which was statisti-
cally signicant) and the stimulated salivary ow rates
(which did not reach statistical signicance) in the malic
acid group. Our results correspond to those of previous
studies, with the primary difference being that these
studies reported statistically signicant differences in
both stimulated and non-stimulated salivary ow rates
(15,17,27). The signicant improvement in the OHRQoL
observed in the intervention group could be attributed to
an increase in both non-stimulated and stimulated sali-
vary ow rates. Only an increase in the non-stimulated
salivary ow rate was statistically signicant, and the
increase in the stimulated salivary ow rate almost
reached statistical signicance (P = 0.055). Hence, it is
likely that its increase also contributed to the improve-
ment in the OHRQoL, as reported in the literature
This study has some limitations. First, most patients
included in this study were females; this indicates that
xerostomia is more common in females than in males
(5). Nevertheless, as groups were balanced regarding
gender and age, not many differences were present
between groups. Second, we recognized that it would
have been ideal to assess xerostomia using a specially
designed questionnaire, such as the xerostomia inven-
tory; however, a Spanish, validated version of such a
questionnaire was not available during this study period.
This clinical trial demonstrates that a topical sali-
vary stimulant containing 1% malic acid improves the
OHRQoL and dry mouth sensation in patients with drug-
induced or idiopathic xerostomia.
This research received nancial support from Andres Bello
University (grant: UNABDI-822-15/CB).
Conict of interest
The authors declare no conict of interest.
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