What is dry mouth?
Dry mouth, or xerostomia (say "zee-ruh-STO-mee-uh"), occurs when your mouth doesn't make enough saliva. Saliva helps you chew, swallow, and digest your food. It also neutralizes the acids that form in your mouth. Over time, dry mouth can lead to dental problems.
What causes it?
Dry mouth is most often a side effect of medicine. Some medicines that can cause dry mouth include diuretics, antihistamines, and decongestants. Other possible causes include dehydration, breathing through your mouth, stress or anxiety, smoking, and problems with how the salivary glands work. Low saliva production is common as you age. It's also common with many health conditions, such as Sjögren's syndrome, or with treatments, such as cancer treatments.
If medicine is causing dry mouth, your doctor may change the type or dose of the medicine.
How is it treated?
Home treatment may help relieve symptoms of a dry mouth.
- Take frequent sips of liquid throughout the day.
Water is best.
- Use ice chips and sugar-free items.
Items such as sugar-free gum or candy will help keep your mouth moist without promoting tooth decay.
- Eat and drink tart foods and liquids.
Tart food and liquids such as sugar-free lemonade, sugar-free sour candies, or dill pickles can help stimulate the flow of saliva.
- Add extra liquid to foods to make them easier to chew and swallow.
- Drink water with meals.
- Use nonprescription saliva substitutes that you can buy at a pharmacy.
How can you help prevent dry mouth?
A dry mouth is common and can often be prevented. Try some of the following prevention measures.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Use a humidifier in your home, especially in the bedroom.
Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
- Breathe through your nose rather than through your mouth.
- Do not take medicines that cause a dry mouth.
These include diuretics, antihistamines, and decongestants. Your doctor can help you find a different medicine.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, tobacco, and alcohol.
These can increase dryness in your mouth.
Current as of: November 13, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.