What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a condition that occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva. It is a common symptom of many health conditions and can have a significant impact on oral health. Symptoms of xerostomia can range from a feeling of having a dry or sticky mouth to difficulty speaking and eating.

Causes of dry mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common condition that a variety of underlying factors can cause. A lack of saliva production, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as a sticky feeling in the mouth, difficulty swallowing and speaking, a burning sensation, and bad breath characterizes it. In order to treat dry mouth, it is important to understand the underlying causes.

The most common cause of dry mouth is dehydration. When the body does not have enough water, saliva production is reduced, leading to a xerostomia. Certain medications can cause this condition as a side effect. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as some herbal remedies, can reduce saliva production. They include antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants, among others. Certain health conditions can also lead to xerostomia. These include diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and Sjogren’s syndrome, a disorder that affects the glands that produce saliva and tears.

Certain treatments, such as radiation therapy, can also reduce saliva production. Sometimes, dry mouth can be caused by lifestyle factors. Smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products can reduce saliva production. Alcohol and caffeine can also have a dehydrating effect on the body. Stress can also lead to dry mouth as it affects the body’s ability to produce saliva. A dry mouth can be caused by aging. As people get older, their salivary glands lose the ability to produce saliva, leading to dry mouth.

dry mouth
Cropped shot of a woman pouting her lips.

The Impact of dry mouth

Xerostomia (dry mouth) is a condition in which the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva, leading to the sensation of dryness in the mouth. While it is a common side effect of certain medications, dehydration, radiation therapy, Sjogren’s Syndrome, stress, and aging can also cause it. Chronic dry mouth can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, including oral health, nutrition, and social interactions.

The most common symptom of xerostomia is a feeling of dryness in the mouth and throat. Other symptoms include burning, roughness, and a coated tongue. This lack of saliva can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay, since saliva helps to wash away bacteria from the teeth and gums. It can also cause difficulty in swallowing, speaking, and tasting food. this condition also affected nutrition, as saliva helps to break down food and make it easier to swallow.

People with dry mouth may also experience difficulty in chewing and speaking, as well as a decreased sense of taste. As a result, they may not get the nutrition they need from their diet. The effects of dry mouth can also extend beyond the physical realm. This condition can affect social interactions, as the lack of saliva can lead to bad breath, which can make it difficult to carry on conversations with others. Xerostomiacan embarrass and a lack of confidence, as people may feel uncomfortable talking or eating in public.

I can manage the effects of chronic dry mouth with lifestyle changes, such as drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and using a humidifier. In addition, using a saliva substitute can help to ease some symptoms of xerostomia. In more severe cases, medications and treatments such as artificial saliva, saliva stimulants, and submandibular gland replacement therapy may be necessary.

Diagnosing dry mouth

While dry mouth is a common problem among the elderly, it can also affect people of all age groups. If left untreated, this condition can lead to several oral health issues such as tooth decay, mouth sores, and denture irritation. Therefore, it is important to identify and diagnose xerostomia so that they can administer the proper treatment.

There are several diagnostic tools available for detecting dry mouth. The most common method is to simply ask the patient about their symptoms. Patients may report a dry feeling in their mouth, a sticky or burning sensation in their tongue, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and frequent thirst. Other signs that may show xerostomia include a dry, rough tongue; cracked lips; bad breath; and a dry cough. Besides patient interviews, there are also several objective tests used to diagnose this condition.

One of the most common tests is the salivary flow rate test. This test measures the amount of saliva produced in a period. A doctor may also order a saliva composition test to analyze the type of saliva produced and its pH level. Another test, the oral candidiasis test, is used to detect fungal growth in the oral cavity that reduced saliva production can cause.

Finally, a doctor may order a biopsy of the salivary glands to assess their functionality. This test is used to identify any structural damage or blockage of the salivary glands that could cause dry mouth.

Treatment Options

Dry mouth is an oral health condition that can have a wide range of affects on the patient. It can lead to difficulty in speaking, eating, and even swallowing, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available to help ease the symptoms of xerostomia.

The most common cause of dry mouth is a decrease in saliva production because of various medications, medical treatments, or health conditions. In these cases, we should address the underlying cause first, as treating the cause can often reduce the symptoms of dry mouth. For example, if the cause is a medication, a doctor may switch the patient to a different medication that does not cause this condition.

For other causes of dry mouth, such as dehydration, radiation therapy, and Sjogren’s syndrome, the patient may need to make lifestyle changes to reduce their symptoms. These changes may include drinking more water throughout the day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and using a humidifier at night. There are a variety of over-the-counter products that can help ease the symptoms of xerostomia. These products include saliva substitutes, artificial saliva, sugar-free gum and mints, and mouthwashes designed for this condition.

Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe medications to help treat the symptoms of dry mouth. These medications can include pilocarpine, which helps stimulate saliva production, and cevimeline, which helps reduce inflammation and pain associated with this condition. Some doctors may recommend that the patient use a prescription-strength mouthwash to help keep the mouth moist and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Finally, it is important for patients to practice good oral hygiene to reduce their risk of tooth decay and other oral health problems. This includes brushing and flossing twice a day, using an antibacterial mouthwash, and visiting the dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.


Dry mouth is a common condition that a variety of factors can cause, including medical conditions, certain medications, and lifestyle choices. It can lead to other health issues if not treated, so it is important to identify the cause and make any necessary lifestyle changes. There are also several treatments available to help ease the symptoms of this condition, so it is important to discuss any concerns with your doctor.