Causes of “dry mouth” and how to relieve it

In recent years, prescribed and over-the-counter medications have emerged as the most common cause of dry mouth. Suspect medications include antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, diuretics, antihypertensive medications and antidepressants. In fact, dry mouth is listed as a potential side effect of more than 400 medications. Be sure to read the literature that accompanies your medications and, if you think a medication is causing dry mouth, tell your dentist or physician. In some cases, a different medication may alleviate the problem.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands do not work properly. The salivary glands help keep your mouth moist, which helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems. The medical name of the condition is xerostomia.

Although a common cause of dry mouth these days is medication, the condition may occur when a person experiences stress, or it may even be a sign of a serious health problem, such as AIDS, diabetes or Sjogren’s Syndrome (an autoimmune disease). Other possible causes include aging, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. People with Alzheimer’s disease or who suffer a stroke have been known to experience dry mouth.

How to relieve dry mouth

Your dentist or physician may recommend using artificial saliva — available at local pharmacies — to keep oral tissues lubricated. But the solution may be as simple as increasing your water intake. Other tips on how to ease dry mouth include:

  • Brush and floss twice a day
  • Chew sugarless gum
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages and smoking
  • Avoid certain juices (orange, grapefruit and tomato)
  • Avoid dry foods, such as toast or crackers
  • Avoid overly salty foods
  • Use alcohol-free oral rinses
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Ask your dentist for advice specific to your situation.

If your dry mouth persists, you should contact your physician.

Source: Academy of General Dentistry (www.agd.org)
Last updated: May 2008

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

SmileWay Wellness Program

Stay Informed

Subscribe to our Wellness Newsletter

Read back issues

Connect with us

Follow Delta Dental on Facebook Siga a Delta Dental en Twitter