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Dry mouth

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.

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Head and neck glands

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Considerations

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. The 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:

Causes

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 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.

Home Care

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:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

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:

References

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/more-info. Updated July 2018. Accessed August 24, 2021.

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.

Simon L, Silk H. Diseases of the mouth. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2021. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier 2021:chap 1029-1034.

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Review Date: 5/3/2021  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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