What is Dry Mouth?
What is Dry Mouth?

Dry Mouth or Xerostomia is not a disease in itself, but can
be a symptom of certain diseases.

It can negatively affect a patient's quality of life-impacting
on eating habits, nutritional health, speech, taste, tolerance
to dental prosthesis (such as dentures) and can increase
the likelihood of dental decay.

What are the causes of Dry Mouth?

Dry Mouth can result from a number of causes, such as
the use of certain drugs (such as
tricyclic anti-depressants, analgesics, tranquilizers,
diuretics and anti-histamines); inflammatory conditions
such as
Mumps, TB, Sarcoidosis and Sjögren's
Syndrome; obstructions such as salivary stones;
conditions such as
dehydration, diabetes, cardiac and
renal failure, toxic goitre, menopause and senility;
nutritional causes such as
Vitamin A and iron deficiency;
cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy;
and psychiatric causes.

What can be done to relieve Dry Mouth?

The lack of saliva can have a profound effect on the mouth
and the teeth.

There are a number of things you can do to relieve the

  • Sip / drink water frequently.
  • Stimulate saliva with sugar-free gum (such as Xylitol),
    diabetic sweets, Salivix or SST if advised.
  • Keep your mouth clean, paying special attention to the
  • Use an artificial saliva (Artificial Saliva, Glandosane,
    Luborant) or saliva substitute (such as Orthana or
    Oral Balance-Biotène).
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash (such as Corsodyl or
  • Avoid alcohol-based mouth rinses.
  • Spray a water and glycerine solution into your mouth,
    mixed in a small aerosol bottle.
  • Always take water or non-alcoholic drinks with meals.
  • Avoid anything that worsens the dryness, such as
    certain drugs (see above), alcohol, smoking, caffeine
    and mouth-breathing.
  • Protect against dental decay by using a Fluoride
    mouth rinses / gels (such as Fluorigard), regular
    dental checks, avoiding sugary foods / drinks and
    sticky food.
  • Protect against Thrush & Halitosis by your mouth very
    clean and moist, rinsing twice daily with chlorhexidine
    (Corsodyl, Chlorhex or Eludril) or Triclosan (Plax),
    brushing or scraping of tongue, keeping dentures out
    at night and soaked in hypochlorite (eg Miltons or
    Dentural) and use of anti-fungals (if prescribed by your
  • Protect the lips with a lip salve or petroleum jelly (eg
  • Consider a dehumidifier in the room.

You can also make dietary changes to help the condition -
blended and mixed foods are easier to swallow.

Eat hard cheeses instead of soft cheeses and use
sucralose in place of sugar.  Avoid spicy, hard crunchy or
dry foods.  Take small bites and eat slowly.  Pineapple has
an enzyme that helps clean the mouth.

Drugs such as
pilocarpine or cevimeline are sometimes
prescribed but these drugs have many side effects that
many people can not tolerate.

Useful Websites:

Biotène products available from www.biotene.co.uk

British Sjögren's Syndrome Society

Sjögren's Syndrome Online Community

Oral Cancer Foundation

Useful Articles:

American Dental Association - Dry Mouth

Eastman Dental Institute, Oral Medicine Clinic - Dry Mouth
- 10 steps towards managing a dry mouth

Eastman Dental Institute, Oral Medicine Clinic - Dry Mouth
Patient Information Sheet

NIAMS, National Institutes of Health Public Health Service
& U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  
Questions & Answers about Sjögren’s Syndrome

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 2004.
An update of the ætiology and management of xerostomia

Vital, Spring 2009, Managing Xerostomia
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Last Updated 11th August 2010