Help for Dry Mouth

Most of the time, the inside of the mouth is moist. But what if that moisture is chronically absent? This condition, called xerostomia or dry mouth, happens when the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva.

What little saliva is made becomes thick and the mouth feels sticky or dry. Chewing, swallowing or speaking may become difficult and things may not taste the same. The tongue can become dry and grooved, and bad breath may develop. The throat also can be affected, turning dry or sore resulting in hoarseness.

Health effects

In addition to these annoying symptoms, overall health can suffer. Dry mouth may cause more plaque than usual to form in the mouth, causing cavities and gum disease. An oral yeast infection, called thrush, also can develop, as can sores, both inside the mouth and at the corners of the lips. In severe cases, difficulty chewing and swallowing can interfere with good nutrition.

If you experience symptoms of dry mouth, talk to your dentist. He or she will assess the possible causes, which can include:

  • Certain medications.
  • Snoring.
  • Mouth breathing.
  • Tobacco, alcohol or recreational drug use.
  • Cancer therapies.
  • Head and neck injuries.
  • Aging.

A dry mouth also may stem from health conditions, such as stroke, salivary gland disorders, diabetes, thrush, dementia, autoimmune diseases and COVID-19.

Fortunately, help for dry mouth is available. The answer may be as simple as switching a medication or using an over-the-counter rinse, mouth moisturizer or artificial saliva. Another possible treatment: prescription medications that stimulate the salivary glands.

Self-help for dry mouth

Below are some steps you can take to reduce symptoms of dry mouth.

  • Sip water or sugar-free beverages frequently.
  • Suck on sugar-free candies or chew sugar-free gum.
  • Breathe through your nose whenever possible.
  • Seek treatment for snoring.
  • Use a room humidifier.
  • Avoid tobacco, caffeine and alcohol.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines, which can dry out the mouth.

To rule out an underlying health condition and monitor plaque and cavities, it’s important to seek dental care for dry mouth. With proper treatment, the mouth will become moist and functional again.