8 Tips for Public Speaking With Dry Mouth

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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So you have a big speech coming up, and you can already feel that sticky, cottony mouth that almost every public speaker has experienced. If you already have a medical or physical condition that causes dry mouth, you may be particularly nervous about speaking in public. But there are some subtle steps you can take to help keep your mouth moist and your confidence up during a presentation.

1. Keep water handy. Stopping to take a small sip of water can create a natural pause in your speech and help to calm your nerves. It’s also important to drink plenty of water the morning of your presentation (even starting 24 hours before) to keep your body hydrated and prevent dry mouth.

2. Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol. These can cause dehydration and make dry mouth symptoms worse. Some mouthwashes contain alcohol, as well. Try one designed for dry mouth—especially one that contains xylitol, which also offers protection against tooth decay.

3. Use a lip balm. Choose one that contains glycerin, a skin softener that attracts moisture to your lips and skin.

4. Try sugar-free candy or gum. Have a piece just before your talk to help produce saliva in your mouth. Sour flavors, such as lemon or lime, are especially good for activating the salivary glands. (Just don’t forget to remove them before your speech!)

5. Imagine you’re biting into a juicy lemon. If you’ve ever done this before, you know how it can get your salivary glands going (and make your mouth pucker!).

6. Sleep with a humidifier. A humidifier puts water into the air. Breathing in this moist air while you sleep can help moisten your air passages (especially in the winter when the air becomes drier, which can irritate your throat and dry out your mouth).

7. Avoid using over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants, which can be drying and make your symptoms worse.

8. Talk to your doctor about using artificial saliva or over-the-counter saliva substitutes to keep your mouth moist.

9. Take deep breaths. Good breathing exercises can help you relax and reduce anxiety, which can cause a dry mouth. Try taking several deep breaths (breathing in for a count of five and slowly exhaling for a count of five). Imagine you are releasing all negative thoughts and energy.

10. Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you are well prepared and know your presentation inside and out. This will help boost your confidence and reduce anxiety, which will help prevent dry mouth symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 5
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Dry Mouth? Don’t Delay Treatment. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm254273.htm#Advice_for_Consumers
  2. Dry Mouth. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-mouth/expert-answers/dry-mouth/faq-20058424
  3. Dry Mouth. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/DryMouth/DryMouth.htm