7 Facts About Dry Mouth

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Allie Lemco Toren on October 25, 2022
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    Dry mouth is more than just a nuisance.
    Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can be a frustrating thing to deal with. If you’ve got dry mouth, your body isn’t producing enough saliva, which can lead to discomfort, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and deeper problems with your oral health. Dry mouth can be a sign of an underlying illness, so it’s important to get the facts about this pesky issue that can be caused by—or lead to—more serious health problems.
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    1. Everyone gets dry mouth at some point.
    Experiencing dry mouth on occasion is normal—it can be triggered by stress, anger, and anxiety, among other things. But if dry mouth sticks around for a long period of time, that’s a sign there’s something else going on. If having a dry mouth is your new normal, it’s time to see your doctor to narrow down the cause and get treatment.
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    2. Dry mouth symptoms can go beyond just a ‘dry mouth.’
    If you have dry mouth, the most obvious symptom is, of course, a dry mouth—a lack of saliva. However, you might also experience a burning sensation in your mouth, a dry feeling in your throat, mouth sores, cracked lips, or even a mouth infection.
  • Senior woman at doctor's office, doctor checking lymph nodes under jaw line
    3. Dry mouth isn’t a normal part of aging.
    About 20% of elderly Americans complain of dry mouth. However, old age is not a direct cause—dry mouth is typically a symptom of an underlying condition or medical treatment, and older people are more likely to take medications and undergo procedures that can lead to dry mouth. More than 400 commonly prescribed drugs list dry mouth as a side effect, including those for depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, diarrhea, incontinence, hypertension and Parkinson’s disease. Plus, therapies like radiation and chemo can also cause the problem.
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    4. Dry mouth may be a sign of a serious health condition.
    If your dry mouth isn’t caused by a medical treatment, it’s likely the culprit is an underlying illness. The most common disease that causes dry mouth is Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that leads to dry eyes and dry mouth. Manifestations of Sjogren’s can extend far beyond your salivary glands.  HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, and other conditions can also cause dry mouth.
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    5. Dry mouth can actually cause more health problems.
    If untreated, dry mouth can lead to serious conditions like gum disease and oral infections. Plus, you’re more likely to lose teeth and develop plaque and tooth decay without the necessary amount of saliva in your mouth. Prevent these complications by brushing your teeth at least twice a day (after every meal, if possible), flossing daily, using a toothpaste that contains fluoride, and seeing your dentist at least twice a year.
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    6. There are many treatments available for dry mouth.
    If your dry mouth is caused by an underlying condition, treating the root of the problem will often restore normal saliva production. And since dry mouth can be caused by some medications, switching your meds can also help alleviate the problem. However, if these options aren’t possible, your doctor may suggest simply trying to increase saliva flow. You can find over-the-counter artificial saliva products at your local drugstore, plus special toothpastes, mouthwashes, and moisturizing gels that are designed specially to help ease dry mouth. If these don’t do the trick, ask your doctor about prescription medications.
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    7. Lifestyle choices can also help dry mouth symptoms.
    In some cases, you can manage dry mouth with just a few tweaks to your daily routine. Drink water often to keep your mouth hydrated, and keep water with you at all times, especially at night. You can also try sucking on sugar-free hard candies or popsicles, or chew sugarless gum—chewing and sucking increase saliva flow naturally. Make sure you’re not using a mouthwash that contains alcohol, which will dry out your mouth even more—and avoid salty, dry, and sugary foods for the same reason.
7 Facts About Dry Mouth

About The Author

Allie Lemco Toren is a health writer and regular contributor to Healthgrades, where she also serves as Senior Health Editor. Her work has also been featured by ShareWIK Health Entertainment, WebMD, Everyday Health, and Food Solutions Magazine. A graduate of Emory University’s journalism program, Allie particularly enjoys writing about medical innovations, the mind-body connection, and thriving with chronic illness.
  1. Dry Mouth. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/drymouth.html
  2. Xerostomia. Oral Cancer Foundation. http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/complications/xerostomia.php
  3. Dry Mouth Complications. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-mouth/basics/complications/con-20035499
  4. Dry Mouth? Don’t Delay Treatment. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm254273.htm#Advice_for_Consumers
  5. Dry Mouth. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/DryMouth/DryMouth.htm
  6. Dry Mouth. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. http://www.aaom.com/dry-mouth
  7. Simple Solutions for Treating Dry Mouth. Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. http://www.sjogrens.org/files/brochures/dry_mouth.pdf
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Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 25
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