Dry mouth (xerostomia)

Dry mouth occurs when there is reduced saliva flow.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth occurs when there is reduced saliva flow into the mouth. Having a dry mouth (less saliva) increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Why is saliva so important?

Saliva helps you to chew, taste and digest food. It also helps to protect your teeth from tooth decay and gum disease. It carries minerals that help to repair the everyday damage to teeth caused by bacteria in the mouth.

Signs of dry mouth

Signs include:

  • person reports that their mouth feels dry, sore or burning
  • little or no saliva
  • thick, ropy saliva
  • difficulty swallowing and chewing

What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth can be a side effect of many medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter.

Medications that can cause dry mouth include:

  • antihistamines
  • decongestants
  • painkillers
  • medications prescribed for high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease
  • muscle relaxants
  • drugs for urinary incontinence
  • anti-depressants and many others.

What can you do?

If you support someone who has dry mouth, encourage them to:

  • Drink plenty of tap water throughout the day
  • Not have too many caffeinated drinks (coffee, some soft drinks, energy drinks)
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help increase saliva flow
  • Speak with an oral health professional about saliva substitutes
  • Ask their doctor, pharmacist, or oral health professional if any medications they take can cause dry mouth