Dry Mouth (also known as Xerostomia)

Dry mouth occurs when there is not enough saliva, or spit to keep your mouth moist and comfortable. Dry mouth is not a disease. It is a side effect of taking medications or can be a symptom of certain diseases or conditions.

Dry mouth is a common complaint amongst older adults but can occur at any age. It is not a normal sign of aging.

Causes

The most common cause of dry mouth is prescribed and over-the counter medications, such as: 

Amphetamines Antihypertensives Bronchodilators
Antianxiety drugs Antiparkinsonians Decongestants
Antidepressants (tricyclics)       Antipsychotics Diuretics
Anticholinergics (atropine) Antispasmodics Hypnotics    
Anticonvulsants   Appetite suppressants        Muscle relaxants
Antihistamines Barbiturates Opioid (narcotic) analgesics

 

Symptoms

  • A sticky, dry or burning feeling in the mouth, throat or nasal passages
  • Lips or corners of mouth are cracked
  • Lips may stick to teeth or dentures
  • Saliva is thick and stringy
  • Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting or speaking

Affect on oral health

Saliva helps to protect teeth by neutralizing the acid caused by plaque that leads to tooth decay. In addition, decreased saliva leads to:

  • plaque buildup
  • gingivitis and gum disease
  • dentures being less comfortable to wear
  • bad breath

Tips to manage dry mouth

  • Daily mouth care: clean teeth, gums and dentures
  • Brush teeth with a high fluoride toothpaste
  • Use a high fluoride mouth rinse
  • Take frequent sips of water to keep the mouth moist
  • Chew sugar-free gum or candy to stimulate saliva
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, caffeinated beverages and sugary drinks
  • Speak to your dentist about products that can help keep your mouth moist
  • Have regular dental examinations and professional cleanings