Dry Mouth

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth is a decrease in the amount of saliva in your mouth. Saliva is often called “spit” or “drool”. You make saliva all the time to help keep your mouth moist.

What is the cause?

Dry mouth often happens because of taking a medicine to:

  • Treat depression or anxiety
  • Treat allergies
  • Lower high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Treat Parkinson’s disease
  • Help your body get rid of excess fluid
  • Treat ulcers or acid reflux

Dry mouth also can be caused by:

  • Infection or a disease of a salivary gland, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, which causes your immune system to attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva
  • Dehydration (a loss of too much fluid from your body due to not drinking enough, having diarrhea, or vomiting)
  • Breathing through your mouth because of a stuffy nose or sleep apnea
  • Radiation treatment to the head or neck

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • A lack of moisture in your mouth
  • A sticky feeling or mild burning feeling in your mouth
  • Cracked lips
  • Tooth decay
  • Trouble swallowing or speaking
  • A change in how foods taste or a loss of your sense of taste

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider or dentist will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have scans of the salivary glands or blood tests to check for possible causes of your symptoms.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on how severe the problem is and what is causing it:

  • You may need to drink more fluids.
  • If your dry mouth is the side effect of medicine you are taking, your healthcare provider may change the dosage or prescribe a different medicine.
  • You may also want to try special mouthwashes, gum, toothpaste, and moisturizing gels created to help people who have dry mouth. Ask your healthcare provider or dentist about these products. Don’t use mouthwashes containing alcohol because they can dry out your mouth.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to help you make more saliva.

How can I take care of myself?

Some things you can do to help take care of yourself are:

  • Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water, unless your healthcare provider has told you to limit your fluids.
  • Sip water often, especially when you are talking a lot.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugar-free hard candies to help you make more saliva.
  • Use a humidifier to put more moisture in the air. Avoid steam vaporizers because they can cause burns. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean, as recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s important to keep bacteria and mold from growing in the water container.
  • Use lip balm for dry, cracked lips.
  • Clean your teeth well. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. Brush for at least 2 minutes, at least twice a day. Floss once a day. See your dentist and dental hygienist as often as recommended for checkups and cleanings.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-17
Last reviewed: 2014-07-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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