Xerostomia-Dry Mouth


Why is saliva important?

Saliva keeps the mouth clean by washing away food debris and bacteria, keeps the tissues of the mouth moisturized, and neutralizes acids in the mouth.

A decrease in saliva (or a change in the consistency of saliva) can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and/or an increased susceptibility to oral infections such as thrush.  A change in saliva consistency or flow can make speaking, tasting, chewing, and swallowing difficult.  Poor saliva flow may lead to sores in the mouth, a loss of suction with existing dentures, and a less comfortable fit of existing dentures.


Why do I have dry mouth?

Dry mouth is most frequently a side effect of a medication that a person may be taking for a medical condition.  Dry mouth can be caused by other factors such as mouth breathing, dehydration, or medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation treatment to the head and neck for cancer.  Dry mouth can be the side effect of certain infections or syndromes as well.


What can I do for dry mouth?

  • Sip water throughout the day, or drink water with meals if swallowing is difficult
  • Suck on ice chips
  • Chew sugar free gum to increase saliva flow
  • Suck on SUGAR-FREE candy to increase saliva flow
  • Use an alcohol-free mouthwash to avoid the drying effects of alcohol
  • Use over the counter saliva substitute products such as Biotene gel, Biotene gum
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and carbonated drinks which can contribute to dry mouth
  • REMEMBER: Use SUGAR-FREE hard candies and cough drops.  Products with sugar as an ingredient combined with a dry mouth can rapidly lead to cavities!