What is dry mouth?

What is dry mouth?

When your body makes too little saliva (spit) to wet the inside of your mouth or the amount of water in the saliva is less than normal you will have a dry mouth.

A dry mouth can cause problems with speech, taste, chewing, and swallowing. Having less saliva can cause dental decay and infections in your mouth. The medical name for dry mouth is Xerostomia (zeer-oh-stoh-mee-ah).

Why is saliva important? 

Saliva wets your mouth and lips.


  • makes it easier to chew and swallow
  • protects your mouth from bacterial and fungal infections
  • keeps your teeth strong and protect them from
  • decay.

Symptoms of a dry mouth 

These may include some of the following:

  • having problems chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • sticky dryness in the mouth
  • thick and stringy saliva
  • cracked lips or corners of the mouth (chelitis)
  • dry, rough tongue
  • burning tongue sensation
  • mouth or tongue sores or mouth ulcers (mucositis/stomatitis)
  • difficulty or pain in wearing dentures
  • taste changes
  • bad breath (gingivitis).

What causes a dry mouth? 


Some auto-immune conditions, such as Sjögren’s syndrome,* cause the body to attack itself, destroying glands such as the salivary glands.

Radiation treatment

People who have head and neck radiation treatment are more likely to get a dry mouth because the salivary glands can be damaged by radiation.


Chemotherapy drugs can cause thick saliva, making the mouth feel dry. Chemotherapy can also cause mouth infections.


A dry mouth is a side effect of many medications. Anti-depressant medications and mood stabilising medications can often cause salivary glands to make less saliva. A dry mouth is also a side effect of medications used
to treat chronic pain, allergies, and high blood pressure.

Ways to treat symptoms of a dry mouth 

  • Check with your doctor whether your medication is causing your dry mouth. There may be another medication that does not cause this side effect.
  • Chewing on sugar-free gum will help to make saliva.
  • Some people become very tired of peppermint flavoured toothpaste, mouthwashes and gums so you might want to change your flavour choices to stop this happening.
  • Sipping water can help keep your mouth moist (water does not work as well as saliva).
  • Artificial saliva spray may help some people.
  • Avoid alcohol-based mouthwash.
  • Stop all tobacco use.
Some people who have a dry mouth may also have a sore mouth.

“Use salt, baking soda and water to gargle and rinse your mouth.”

“Hold water or ice in your mouth.”

“A mixture of equal quantities of salt and baking soda 1/2 tsp in glass of warm water – is useful to promote a healthy mouth.”

“Ask your doctor about thrush lozenges.”

“Put gel on with cotton buds.”

“Avoid foods that will aggravate the situation.”

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