Xerostomia; Dry mouth syndrome; Cotton mouth syndrome; Cotton mouth; Hyposalivation; Oral dryness
Dry mouth occurs when you don't make enough saliva. This causes your mouth to feel dry and uncomfortable. Dry mouth that is ongoing may be a sign of illness, and can lead to problems with your mouth and teeth.
Saliva helps you break down and swallow foods and protects teeth from decay. A lack of saliva may cause a sticky, dry feeling in your mouth and throat. Your saliva may become thick or stringy. Other symptoms may include:
Too little saliva in your mouth allows acid-producing bacteria to increase. This can lead to:
Dry mouth occurs when salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet or they stop making it altogether.
Common causes of dry mouth include:
You can also get dry mouth if you feel stressed or anxious, breathe through your mouth, or become dehydrated.
Dry mouth is common in older adults. But aging itself does not cause dry mouth. Older adults tend to have more health conditions and take more medicines, which increases the risk of dry mouth.
Try these tips to soothe dry mouth symptoms:
Making these changes in your diet may help:
Certain things can make dry mouth worse, so it's best to avoid:
To take care of your oral health:
Contact your health care provider if:
Proper treatment involves finding out the cause of dry mouth.
Your provider will:
Your provider may order:
If your medicine is the cause, your provider may change the type or medicine or the dose. Your provider may also prescribe:
Elluru RG. Physiology of the salivary glands. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 81.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Dry mouth. www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/dry-mouth. Updated September, 2022. Accessed June 8, 2023.
Pham KL, Mirowski GW. Oral diseases and oral manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver diseases. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 24.
Popovtzer A, Eisbruch A. Radiotherapy for head and neck cancer: radiation physics, radiobiology, and clinical principles. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 75.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 4/27/2023
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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