Dry Mouth Syndrome

  Often described as "cotton mouth", Dry Mouth Syndrome (Xerostomia) is a condition caused by a decrease in saliva production.  This occurs when the Salivary Glands do not function properly, leaving the mouth dry and uncomfortable.  Saliva aids in the digestion process.  It helps to protect teeth from decay, and lubricates the tongue and other tender tissues of the mouth.  It also helps to prevent infections and sores in the mouth.  Dry Mouth occurs when the salivary glands stop working effectively.   Dry Mouth can be difficult to diagnose because of the nature of the condition: what feels dry to one patient may not be no tic able to another.  Sometimes the amount of saliva may be reduced by 50% before symptoms occur.  Dentists are sometimes able to diagnose Xerostomia based on visual signs in the patient's mouth.  A Dentist may notice a thickness or lack of saliva, an increased decay rate, or cracked, dry lips.  Sometimes mouth mirrors or instruments will stick to the side of the patient's mouth.  Due to the lack of saliva flow, the patient may have an increase susceptibility to Periodontal Disease or mouth sores.   If visible signs are not present, a diagnosis can be made by talking with the patient about what they have been experiencing.

25% of patients experience Dry Mouth at some point in their life.  For some people, however, it can be a daily problem.  Patients over the age of 50 are more likely to experience Dry Mouth.  As we get older, our mouths naturally produce less saliva, and older patients tend to take more medications which have been linked to Xerostomia..

Causes of Dry Mouth


Prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause of Dry Mouth, contributing to   70% of all cases.  The number of medications one takes and how they interact is also directly related to Xerostomia.  If medications are the cause of your Dry Mouth, speak with your Doctor.  It may be possible to change the medication or lower the dosage to help minimize the symptoms of Dry Mouth.  Some medications which have been shown to cause dry mouth include but are not limited to:

  • Antihistamines
  • Acne medications
  • Decongestants
  • Seizure medications
  • Medications for Psychotic Disorders
  • Diarrhea medications
  • Asthma Drugs
  • Antidepressants and anxiety medications
  • Painkillers
  • Diuretics
  • Tranquilizers / Sedatives
  • Antihypertensives (blood pressure)

Disease / Illness

Dry Mouth may be related to general Dehydration of the body due to vomiting, diarrhea and fever.  Patients who have experienced nerve damage may also suffer from Dry Mouth if the nerve damage is related to the salivary glands.  Patients who have battled cancer and have gone through Chemotherapy and/or Radiation to the head and neck, have a high risk of Xerostomia.  Dry Mouth can also be a warning sign of a variety of diseases including but not limited to:

  • HIV
  • Alzheimer's
  • Anemia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Stoke
  • Mumps


Some personal habits can be the cause of Dry Mouth.  Often, this only occurs after an extended time, and if the patient's habits change, it may take some time for the side effect of Xerostomia to diminish.  These habits include but are not limited to:

  • Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Caffeinated Drinks
  • Stress and Anxious
  • Excessive Sweating without rehydration

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms below, it is important that you discuss Dry Mouth with one of our Doctors.  The longer a patient suffers from Xerostomia, the more likely decay will occur.  Some of the most common symptoms of Dry Mouth include:

  • Dry or sticky feeling in mouth
  • Constant thirst
  • Difficulty eating, swallowing, or speaking
  • Thick, Foamy, or Stringy Saliva
  • Cracked or Dry Lips
  • Burning mouth
  • Dry, red or painful tongue
  • Bad breath
  • Altered Taste
  • Difficulty wearing dentures

Relief from Dry Mouth

Dry Mouth has negatively impacted the quality of life for many people.  Although Xerostomia is not itself curable, the condition can be improved by isolating the cause of the problem.  Below are some changes which will help ease the pain associated with Dry Mouth:

  • Chew sugar free gum
  • Drink and Sip water often
  • Brush with mild-flavored toothpaste
  • Avoid mouth rinses with an alcohol component
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid Smoking
  • Avoid Salty foods
  • Avoid Citrus Juices
  • Saliva Substitutes

A Saliva Substitute is an over-the-counter product designed to stimulate saliva production and/or supplement the benefits of natural saliva in the mouth.  Oral Gels and moisturizing Sprays can give long lasting relief and are convenient and portable.  Biotene® is group of specially designed products to treat the symptoms of dry mouth.  Biotene products are over-the-counter and can be found in most major drug stores.

For More Information

For more information, please visit www.Biotene.com



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