Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) – Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) – Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

What Is Dry Mouth?

A dry mouth, xerostomia, is when you don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. A dry mouth is called a cottonmouth, as it can feel like you have just swallowed a cotton ball. Many people only experience dry mouth temporarily, such as when they first wake up or if they are nervous or stressed. If a person constantly has a dry mouth, this can hurt the overall health of the teeth and mouth. Although dry mouth may not seem severe, it can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.

What Are The Symptoms Of Dry Mouth?

Many people are unaware that they have dry mouths until there is a 50% reduction in saliva. Some common symptoms of dry mouth are:

  • A dry or sticky feeling in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry, cracked lips, especially at the corners of the mouth
  • Bad breath (also called halitosis)
  • Changes or difficulty tasting food
  • Frequently feeling thirsty
  • Difficulty with chewing and speaking
  • Mouth sores, red tongue
  • Tingling or burning sensation, especially on the tongue
  • Dry, hoarse throat.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

A dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications. There are around 1,000 medications that can cause xerostomia. Some common medications that cause dry mouth are antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, pain relievers, and diuretics.

A dry mouth is also associated with age. As we age, we tend to produce less saliva, leading to xerostomia. Older people are also more likely to have medical conditions and take medications that cause dry mouth. Several medical conditions can cause dry mouth. These include Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV/AIDS. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat cancer can also lead to a dry mouth. This can be temporary or permanent, depending on if any damage was caused to the salivary glands.

People with sinus problems also tend to develop a dry mouth. If you have a blocked nose, you are forced to breathe through your mouth, making it dry.

Why Do I Get A Dry Mouth While Sleeping?

While you sleep, your body doesn’t produce as much saliva. Lack of saliva throughout the night leaves you with a dry mouth when you wake. People who breathe through their mouths at night are also more likely to get a dry mouth while sleeping.

This is why brushing your teeth before going to sleep is essential, as saliva naturally protects your teeth, which you cannot do while sleeping. Saliva flow will return to normal once you start eating and drinking. Brushing your teeth in the morning will also eliminate morning breath caused by a dry mouth.

What Is The Treatment For Dry Mouth?

It is essential to get treatment for dry mouth as it can lead to tooth decay, halitosis, and gingivitis, not to mention the discomfort it causes. The following tips can help the body produce more saliva or relieve some of the symptoms of xerostomia.

  • Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol, as they are very drying. Instead, use products such as Biotene, designed for people with dry mouths.
  • Take frequent sips of water throughout the day
  • Use saliva substitute products
  • Brush your teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste to protect them. Toothpaste that doesn’t contain a foaming agent, sodium lauryl sulfate, is more comfortable for people with xerostomia.
  • As dry mouth sufferers are more likely to develop other dental problems, ensure you visit your dentist regularly to check and clean your teeth.
  • Ask your doctor to change medications that could be causing dry mouth
  • Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva flow
  • Avoid caffeine, smoking, and alcohol, which can cause the mouth to become drier.
  • Avoid salty or spicy foods as they can be painful for dry mouth sufferers
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.


Dry mouth is a common problem that various factors can cause. Many treatments are available to help relieve symptoms of dry mouth, from over-the-counter products to prescription medications. It is important to talk to your doctor if you experience persistent dry mouth to get the appropriate treatment. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as drinking more water and avoiding tobacco can help reduce the severity of dry mouth symptoms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *