In cases where a patient’s salivary glands have been damaged, for example due to radiation treatment for oral cancer, scientists have created devices to increase the flow of saliva. Recent studies have shown low level electrostimulation or TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) can be employed to increase how much saliva a patient produces throughout the day. One device uses electrode pads put on either side of the cheeks to stimulate the parotid glands. Because the patient can feel and control the electric current, the studies lack a placebo control.
Another device (Saliwell) gets placed in the mouth, by way of a lower teeth custom mouth piece with built in low level electrodes and batteries. Since the level of electricity is too low to feel by the patient, scientists were able to perform studies, using placebo mouth pieces. In one study, patients placed the device in their mouth for five minutes, five times a day. Results showed a significant difference between the placebo and the acting device. Another 11 month study showed a marked subjective improvement in speech, mouth discomfort and adequate saliva production throughout the day and while eating. They didn’t see any significant adverse effects from using the device.