Skip to main content

Dry Mouth

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about dry mouth?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a lack of saliva (spit). Saliva helps protect your teeth from decay and your mouth from bacterial infection. Saliva also helps you chew, swallow, and digest food. Dry mouth happens when your saliva glands are not working properly. This causes a decrease in the amount of saliva your mouth produces.

What increases my risk for dry mouth?

  • Medicines, such as antidepressants, allergy medicines, blood pressure medicines, or pain medicines
  • Older age
  • Radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Dehydration
  • Conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, Sjögren syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stress
  • Smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or using smokeless tobacco

What other signs and symptoms might I have?

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Thick or stringy saliva
  • Scratchy, burning, or tingling feeling on your tongue
  • Chapped, cracked lips or corners of your mouth
  • Trouble talking, chewing, or swallowing
  • Thirst or bad breath
  • Hoarse voice or dry throat
  • Sores on your mouth or tongue
  • Change in taste

How is dry mouth diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your mouth and ask about your medicines. You may need any of the following:

  • A salivary flow test may show how much saliva your mouth produces.
  • An x-ray, CT, or MRI may show a blockage, such as a stone or mass. You may be given contrast liquid to help the gland show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is dry mouth treated?

If your dry mouth is caused by medicines, your healthcare provider may change your medicine or adjust the dose. Your provider may recommend saliva substitutes that help keep your mouth moist. You may also need medicines that help increase your saliva production.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink more water than usual. It may help to sip small amounts throughout the day. This will help keep your mouth moist. Do not drink caffeine or alcohol. Do not drink acidic juices such as tomato, orange, or grapefruit.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugar-free candy. This will help increase saliva production.
  • Rinse your mouth 4 times each day. Rinse after every meal. Use a mixture of salt and baking soda. Mix ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water. Swish in your mouth and spit out.
  • Brush at least twice each day and floss your teeth. Use over-the-counter mouthrinses for dry mouth. Do not use mouthrinses that have alcohol.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier. A humidifier will increase air moisture in your home. This may help moisten your mouth, especially at night.
  • Do not smoke. Tobacco products can dry out your mouth. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • Your mouth, face, or neck are swollen.
  • You have trouble opening your mouth.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have tooth pain.
  • Your gums are irritated, painful, or bleed.
  • Your symptoms do not get better, or they get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Dry Mouth

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments guides (external)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.