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Dry Mouth or Xerostomia - Causes and Treatment

Published on Mar 11, 2017 and last reviewed on Dec 14, 2021   -  6 min read


Dry mouth, which in medical terms is known as Xerostomia, can cause severe discomfort to the individual suffering from it. In this article, we will discuss the causes and the simple remedies that can ease the symptoms.

Dry Mouth or Xerostomia - Causes and Treatment

What Is Saliva?

Saliva is a clear watery fluid that is produced 24 hours a day by the salivary glands. It contains many minerals, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Saliva also contains enzymes that help digestion. It is a buffer solution and helps in maintaining the mouth's pH.

What Are the Functions of Saliva?

What Is Xerostomia?

The term is derived from a Greek word, where Xero means dry, and Stoma means mouth. Xerostomia is a medical term that refers to a subjective complaint of dry mouth resulting from reduced salivary production by the salivary glands. Reduced salivary production is not sufficient to keep the oral cavity wet.

How Common Is Dry Mouth?

This condition is more commonly seen in females. It can affect the life of the individual suffering from it and cause considerable discomfort, which can cause severe anxiety and hamper the quality of life. It can affect about 15 to 20% of the population.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

It can be due to a single or multiple causes. It increases the urge to drink more water, which never feels satisfied, and makes the saliva thick, stringy, and mucous-like.

The following are the causes of dry mouth:

What Are the Conditions That Cause Dry Mouth?

The conditions which cause dry mouth are the following:

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?

How Is Dry Mouth Diagnosed?

How Can We Manage Dry Mouth?

Management of dry mouth will depend on the cause.

  1. Many a time, treating the underlying cause can help in relieving the symptoms.

  2. If dry mouth is due to a side effect of any medication, you should consult your physician to either reduce the dose of the medicine or change it to a drug that is less likely to cause dry mouth.

  3. Go for a regular dental checkup so that oral hygiene can be meticulously maintained, get the cavities filled, and oral prophylaxis can be done for preventing tooth and gum infections.

  4. Use fluoridated toothpaste and fluoride-containing oral rinse prescribed by your dentist.

What Lifestyle Modification Should I Follow for Dry Mouth?

What Are the Home Remedies Available for Treating Dry Mouth?

What Can I Do to Increase Salivary Secretion in Dry Mouth?

What Are the Treatment Modalities Under Research?

There are also new treatments in the study for the treatment of dry mouth. Scientists also are studying the possibility of replacing the diseased salivary gland with an artificial salivary gland.

What Are the Complications of Dry Mouth?


Dry mouth can be managed with supportive or palliative treatment, so individuals suffering from dry mouth should not lose hearts. Follow the instructions given by your dentist, which can help you manage a dry mouth.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth or xerostomia occurs due to diabetes, oral thrush, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Sjogren's syndrome, alcoholism, using tobacco, mouth breathing, HIV/AIDS, etc.


How Can I Treat Dry Mouth?

Drinking adequate water, stopping medications that cause xerostomia, using sugarless candies and chewing gums, maintaining good oral hygiene, rinsing with xylitol-containing mouthwashes, avoiding mouth breathing, and using over-the-counter salivary substitutes help in overcoming dry mouth. In cases with severe dry mouth, the dentist may recommend Pilocarpine or Cevimeline medication to stimulate salivary secretion.


Why Is Dryness of the Mouth Increased in the Morning?

Dry mouth or xerostomia at night is mainly due to nasal blocking, which causes snoring or breathing through the mouth. As age progresses, the rate of salivary production decreases, resulting in dry mouth.


How Can Dry Mouth at Night Be Managed?

- Using a room humidifier.
- Avoiding acidic or spicy foods for dinner.
- Eating dinner at the appropriate time.
- Avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
- Keeping a glass of water near the bed and sipping it when there is thirst or dry mouth.
- Using nasal decongestant sprays to relieve nasal congestion to enable mouth breathing.
- Using alcohol-free mouthwashes.
- Using sugar-free candies and chewing gums.
- Maintaining good oral hygiene.


Which Medicines Induce Xerostomia?

- Tricyclic antidepressants.
- Diuretics.
- Beta-blockers.
- Antihistamines.
- Antipsychotics.
- Morphine.
- Anticonvulsants.


Which Nerve Is Responsible for Xerostomia?

In case of paralysis of the facial nerve or facial palsy, the parasympathetic branch of the facial nerve is affected, which supplies the sublingual and submandibular salivary glands. It results in decreased salivary secretion resulting in dry mouth.


What Causes Xerostomia After Taking Neuroleptics?

Neuroleptics or antipsychotic drugs have an anticholinergic effect on the salivary glands, thereby decreasing saliva production. These drugs block acetylcholine which is an essential messenger for the salivary glands that regulate salivary secretion.


What Results in the Dry Mouth Even After Drinking Excess Water?

Even after drinking excessive water, if there is dry mouth or xerostomia, it results from reduced salivary production.


Which Vitamin Deficiency Induces Dry Mouth?

The deficiency of vitamin A and B12 causes dry mouth, burning sensation, and inflammation of the sides of the mouth.


Is Dry Mouth a Severe Condition?

Although xerostomia itself is not a severe condition, it can sometimes be due to an underlying chronic medical condition that requires medical intervention. Further, it causes dental complications like dental caries, periodontal diseases, malodor, loss of taste sensation, etc., which might need dental treatment.


What Is the Lasting Period of Dry Mouth After Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy causes dry mouth which usually returns to normal after a couple of months, but in few cases, it may last from six months to one year.


Is a Throat Infection Associated With Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth or xerostomia is often associated with a sore throat, burning sensation, speech impediment, swallowing difficulty, and dry nasal passages.


Can Mouthwash Relieve Dry Mouth?

Mouthwashes help improve the overall oral hygiene and have a role in treating dry mouth. Mouthwashes containing Xylitol help enhance the salivary production whereas alcohol mouthwashes should not be used in the dry mouth as it hampers the production of saliva.

Last reviewed at:
14 Dec 2021  -  6 min read




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