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Dry Mouth


Dry mouth (xerostomia) is the feeling of not having enough saliva in your mouth. It is usually a side effect of medical treatment, or may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Having sufficient saliva is important as it helps with chewing, digesting and swallowing food, protecting teeth from decay and preventing mouth infections. In the long term, it can be a serious problem as it affects the ability to eat, and a reduced appetite may lead to unintentional weight loss. Dry mouth affects approximately 10% of the general population, and about 25% of older people.      



Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are not working properly to produce saliva. This can be due to several reasons including:  

  • side effect from treatment methods for high blood pressure or diabetes,  
  • side effect of radiotherapy or chemotherapy,  
  • dehydration as a result of not drinking enough water,  
  • nerve damage to facial nerves responsible for producing saliva, or  
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that mainly affects the eyes and salivary glands.      



Dry mouth can be diagnosed based on a person’s history, including complaints of a dry mouth or difficulty eating dry foods such as biscuits. The mouth and tongue can also be examined; both would appear dry and sticky. The presence of dental caries can also aid diagnosis.



Symptoms of xerostomia include:  

  • sticky, dry feeling in your mouth,  
  • your tongue sticking to the top of your mouth,  
  • difficulty chewing, swallowing, tasting or talking,  
  • a dry tongue,
  • bad breath,  
  • dry and cracked lips,  
  • possible tooth decay or infection in the mouth, and  
  • loss of appetite.      



Management of dry mouth depends on the symptoms presented. Good oral hygiene such as brushing your teeth at least twice daily is recommended to prevent dental caries. Frequent rinsing of the mouth can also help with keeping it moist. If you are experiencing difficulty with eating, soft-textured foods may be easier to chew and swallow. Drinking enough fluids is also recommended to remain hydrated. If symptoms persist, speak to your health care professional about additional treatments to increase saliva production.      



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.   Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.      



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