Everyone experiences dry mouth once in a while—when one is nervous, upset, or under stress, for instance.  But dry mouth that persists all or most of the time is a condition in which the mouth does not produce enough saliva, or spit, to maintain its wetness.  It can be uncomfortable and can lead to serious health problems. Dry mouth...

  • Can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking.

  • Can increase your chances of developing dental decay and other infections in the mouth.

  • Can be a sign of certain diseases and conditions.

  • Can be caused by certain medications or medical treatments.

  • Is not a normal part of aging, so if you think you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician—there are things you can do to get relief.

Symptoms include:

  • a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth

  • trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking

  • a burning feeling in the mouth

  • a dry feeling in the throat

  • cracked lips

  • a dry, tough tongue

  • mouth sores

  • an infection in the mouth

Saliva does more than keep the mouth wet. It helps digest food, protects teeth from decay, prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth, and makes it possible for you to chew and swallow.  Without enough saliva, you may also not get the proper nutrients from the food you eat since you cannot chew and swallow certain foods.

People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. There are several reasons why these salivary glands may not be functioning:

  • Side effects of some medicines. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to produce less saliva. Medicines for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.

  • Disease. Some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sjögren's Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease can all cause dry mouth.

  • Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.

  • Chemotherapy. Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry.

  • Nerve damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that signal the salivary glands to produce saliva.

Treatment will depend on the specific cause of the problem:

  •  If your dry mouth is caused by medication, your physician might change your medicine or adjust the dosage.

  •  If your salivary glands are not working properly, but can still produce some saliva, your physician or dentist might give you medicine that helps the glands work better.

  •  Your physician or dentist might suggest that you use artificial saliva to keep your mouth wet.

Things you can do to relieve symptoms of dry mouth:

  • Sip water or sugarless drinks often.

  •  Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas. Caffeine can dry out the mouth.

  • Sip water or a sugarless drink during meals. This will make chewing and swallowing easier.

  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow; citrus, cinnamon, or mint-flavored candies are good choices.

  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol. They dry out the mouth.

  • Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth.

  • Use a humidifier at night.

Remember, if you have dry mouth, you need to be extra careful to keep your teeth healthy. Make sure you:

  • Gently brush your teeth at least twice a day.

  • Floss your teeth every day.

  • Ask your dentist or physician about using a particular type of toothpaste.

  • Avoid sticky, sugary foods. If you do eat them, brush immediately afterwards.

  • Visit your dentist for a check-up at least twice a year. Your dentist might give you solution that you can rinse with to help keep your teeth healthy.

Sjögren's Syndrome is a major cause of dry mouth. You can get information about dry mouth related to Sjögren's Syndrome from your doctor.

Source: NIH Publication