Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View the Dry Mouth Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Slideshow

Quick GuideOral Health Pictures Slideshow: Dry Mouth Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Oral Health Pictures Slideshow: Dry Mouth Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is the treatment for dry mouth?

Those seeking treatment for dry mouth will most likely want something to provide comfort and relief. Treatment for dry mouth can be divided into the following four categories: saliva preservation, saliva substitution, saliva stimulation, and prevention of caries, and yeast (Candida) infection.

Saliva preservation: If salivary content is low, one must do as much as possible to keep the oral tissues as moist as possible and limit the things that can dry the mouth out. Those experiencing dry mouth should try to breathe through their nose as much as possible, and limit mouth breathing. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco is very important. Using a humidifier to introduce more moisture to a room or at bedside can be helpful, especially while sleeping. Don't use OTC antihistamines or decongestants, as they can dry the mouth out as well.

Saliva substitution: There are many home remedies to help replace the moisture that saliva provides to the mouth. These include drinking water more frequently throughout the day, especially while eating. Sucking ice chips throughout the day will help the mouth remain as moist as possible. A mouthwash can be helpful, but it can also be harmful. When selecting a mouthwash, the person must choose a product that doesn't contain alcohol, such as Biotene, for alcohol-based products will only cause further mouth dryness. Artificial OTC saliva substitutes and oral lubricants containing glycerin will provide help during eating and speaking. They won't cure xerostomia, but will provide some relief. Moisturizing the lips with a balm or Vaseline can also be helpful.

Saliva stimulation: Chewing gum can help stimulate salivary flow, but it is important to remember not to use gum or candies that have sugar in them or the person will be placed at greater risk for developing cavities. Sugar-free lemon drops or other hard candies can also help stimulate the salivary glands. Other remedies include medications that help increase salivary flow such as pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac). These prescription medications are to be avoided by people with asthma or glaucoma.

Prevention of caries and Candida infection: Cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and fungal infections are common complications of dry mouth. A dry oral environment makes plaque control more difficult, so meticulous oral care and hygiene becomes essential in preventing rampant caries, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. The affected individual should incorporate a low-sugar diet and begin daily use of fluoride treatments and antimicrobial rinses to combat the effects oral dryness has on the teeth and oral tissues. Prescription toothpastes that contain more fluoride, calcium, and phosphate will help protect and remineralize teeth where necessary. Frequent visits to the dentist are necessary to help manage these complications. Since people with dry mouth often develop fungal infections such as thrush (oral candidiasis), they may require topical antifungal treatment such as rinses and dissolving tablets. Dentures often harbor fungal infections, so they should be soaked daily in chlorhexidine or 1% bleach.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/11/2016

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