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Dry Mouth: Home Treatment and Prevention

Topic Overview

Dry mouth (xerostomia) may make it hard for you to eat, talk, swallow, wear dentures, or taste food. In most cases, home treatment will relieve symptoms of a dry mouth. An ongoing dry mouth can lead to mouth infections, gum disease, and dental cavities.

Some causes of dry mouth include dehydration, breathing through your mouth, stress or anxiety, smoking, and problems with how the salivary glands work, so you make less saliva. Low saliva production is common as you age. It also is common with many health conditions, such as Sjögren's syndrome, or with treatments, such as cancer treatments.

A dry mouth can also be caused by a medicine, such as a diuretic, an antihistamine, or a decongestant. If you suspect that a medicine is the cause of your dry mouth, call the doctor who prescribed the medicine to determine whether you should stop taking it or take a different one. An appointment may not be necessary. If you are taking a nonprescription medicine, stop taking it. Call your doctor if you feel that you need to continue the medicine.

Home treatment

Home treatment may help relieve symptoms of a dry mouth.

  • Take frequent sips of liquid throughout the day. Water is best.
  • Use ice chips and sugar-free items such as gum, hard candy and lollipops, frozen fruit juices, and soft drinks. They will help keep your mouth moist without promoting tooth decay.
  • Eat and drink tart foods and liquids, such as lemonade, sugar-free sour candies, and dill pickles, to help stimulate the flow of saliva.
  • Add extra liquid to foods to make them easier to chew and swallow. Drink water with meals.
  • Use nonprescription saliva substitutes that you can buy at a pharmacy.

Prevention

A dry mouth is common and can often be prevented. Try some of the following prevention measures:

  • Drink 2 qt (2 L) of water a day. This is the same as eight 8 fl oz (250 mL) glasses of water.
  • Use a humidifier in your home, especially in the bedroom.
  • Breathe through your nose rather than through your mouth.
  • Do not take medicines that cause a dry mouth. These include diuretics, antihistamines, and decongestants. Your doctor can help you find a different medicine.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, tobacco, and alcohol, all of which increase dryness in your mouth.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised July 20, 2012

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