Xerostomia – Dry Mouth

What is dry mouth or xerostomia?

Most people experience the occasional dry mouth, or xerostomia, a temporary condition brought on by taking certain medications or simply not drinking enough water. The problem usually resolves when we stop the medicine or hydrate our bodies. In some cases, however, dry mouth becomes chronic and may be associated with a more serious condition. An ongoing lack of saliva, which cleanses our mouths of bacteria and helps us taste and digest food, can also lead to problems such as tooth decay and infection in the mouth.

Symptoms of dry mouth

A feeling of dryness in your mouth may not be the only symptom of dry mouth. You might also experience:

  • Burning sensation in your mouth
  • Difficulty tasking, swallowing, speaking
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Dry, rough tongue
  • Sores in your mouth

Dry mouth usually goes away by itself, but depending on the cause you may need to see a doctor. In some cases, dry mouth is a symptom of disease such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or Sjögren’s syndrome, an immune disorder that causes the body to attack the glands that produce moisture such as tears and saliva.


Preventing and treating dry mouth may involve changing certain lifestyle factors. For example, smoking, drinking alcohol and drinking caffeine are behaviors that contribute to dry mouth. If you're on long-term medications that produce this side effect, you may want to talk with your doctor about switching to a different medication. If there is something genuinely wrong with your salivary glands, your treatment may include medication that helps you produce more saliva. See a doctor if your dry mouth symptoms are concerning you.

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