What is Dry Mouth?
What is Dry Mouth?

Dry Mouth or Xerostomia is not a disease in itself, but can be a symptom of certain diseases.

It can negatively affect a patient's quality of life-impacting on eating habits, nutritional health, speech, taste,
tolerance to dental prosthesis (such as dentures) and can increase the likelihood of dental decay.

What are the causes of Dry Mouth?

Dry Mouth can result from a number of causes, such as the use of certain drugs (such as anti-hypertensives,
tricyclic anti-depressants, analgesics, tranquilizers, diuretics and anti-histamines); inflammatory conditions such as
Mumps, TB, Sarcoidosis and Sjögren's Syndrome; obstructions such as salivary stones; conditions such as
dehydration, diabetes, cardiac and renal failure, toxic goitre, menopause and senility; nutritional causes such as
Vitamin A and iron deficiency; cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy; and psychiatric causes.
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Last Updated 5th March 2020
What can be done to relieve Dry Mouth?

The lack of saliva can have a profound effect on the mouth and the teeth.

There are a number of things you can do to relieve the symptoms:

  • Sip / drink water frequently.
  • Stimulate saliva with sugar-free gum (such as Xylitol), diabetic sweets, Salivix or SST if advised.
  • Keep your mouth clean, paying special attention to the teeth.
  • Use an artificial saliva (Artificial Saliva, Glandosane, Luborant) or saliva substitute (such as Orthana or Oral
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash (such as Corsodyl or Biotène).
  • Avoid alcohol-based mouth rinses.
  • Spray a water and glycerine solution into your mouth, mixed in a small aerosol bottle.
  • Always take water or non-alcoholic drinks with meals.
  • Avoid anything that worsens the dryness, such as certain drugs (see above), alcohol, smoking, caffeine and
  • Protect against dental decay by using a Fluoride mouth rinses / gels (such as Fluorigard), regular dental
    checks, avoiding sugary foods / drinks and sticky food.
  • Protect against Thrush & Halitosis by your mouth very clean and moist, rinsing twice daily with chlorhexidine
    (Corsodyl, Chlorhex or Eludril) or Triclosan (Plax), brushing or scraping of tongue, keeping dentures out at
    night and soaked in hypochlorite (eg Miltons or Dentural) and use of anti-fungals (if prescribed by your
  • Protect the lips with a lip salve or petroleum jelly (eg Vaseline).
  • Consider a humidifier in the room.

You can also make dietary changes to help the condition - blended and mixed foods are easier to swallow.

Eat hard cheeses instead of soft cheeses and use
sucralose in place of sugar.  Avoid spicy, hard crunchy or dry
foods.  Take small bites and eat slowly.  Pineapple has an enzyme that helps clean the mouth.

Drugs such as
pilocarpine or cevimeline are sometimes prescribed but these drugs have many side effects that
many people can not tolerate.

(Adapted from the
Eastman Dental Institute, Oral Medicine Clinic - Dry Mouth - 10 steps towards managing a dry
.  My thanks to Prof Scully for updating me regarding this).
Useful Websites:

Biotène products available from www.biotene.co.uk

Xerotin products available from www.SpePharm.com

BioXtra products available from www.bioxhealthcare.com

Aquoral products available from www.aquoral.com

Table comparing the various saliva substitutes & preparations used to treat dry mouth / xerostomia.

British Sjögren's Syndrome Society

Sjögren's Syndrome Online Community

Oral Cancer Foundation

Challacombe Scale

Useful Articles:

American Dental Association - Dry Mouth

Eastman Dental Institute, Oral Medicine Clinic - Dry Mouth - 10 steps towards managing a dry mouth

Eastman Dental Institute, Oral Medicine Clinic - Dry Mouth Patient Information Sheet

NIAMS, National Institutes of Health Public Health Service & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  
Questions & Answers about Sjögren’s Syndrome

Oral Diseases 2002.  Current Issues in Sjoegren’s Syndrome

Oral Diseases 2002.  Drug Effects on Salivary Glands - Dry Mouth

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 2004. An update of the ætiology and management of

JADA 2007.  For The Dental Patient...Oral Moisturizers. Products that can help relieve Dry Mouth

Vital, Spring 2009, Managing Xerostomia

BDJ 2011.  Treating Patients with Dry Mouth - General Dental Practitioners’ Knowledge, Attitudes & Clinical

BDJ 2012.  Sjögren's Syndrome – An Update for Dental Practitioners

Dental Update 2012.  Oral Medicine 4. Dry Mouth & Disorders of Salivation

Evidence-Based Dentistry 2012. No strong evidence that any topical treatment is effective for relieving the
sensation of dry mouth

Cochrane Collaboration 2013.  Interventions for the Management of Dry Mouth.  Non-Pharmacological Interventions

Prim Dent J 2015.  Dry Mouth & Sjögren’s Syndrome - An Overview

Singapore Dent J 2015.  Dry Mouth – An overview

AFP 2016.  Dry Mouth - Xerostomia & Salivary Gland Hypofunction

Dent Update 2016.  Antimuscarinics in Older People - Dry Mouth and Beyond

JADA 2016.  Managing Dry Mouth

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017.  Pharmacological interventions for preventing dry mouth &
salivary gland dysfunction following radiotherapy

Biotène Patient Leaflet

Oral Health Matters.  Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)