Dry Mouth

What is Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia (ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah), is the condition of not having enough saliva, or spit, to keep the mouth wet. Dry mouth can happen to anyone occasionally—for example, when nervous or stressed. However, when dry mouth persists, it can make chewing, eating, swallowing and even talking difficult. Dry mouth also increases the risk for tooth decay because saliva helps keep harmful germs that cause cavities and other oral infections in check.

Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands that make saliva don't work properly. It's important to see your dentist or physician to find out why your mouth is dry as there are several reasons why these glands might not work right.

  • Side effects of some prescription medicines. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. For example, medicines for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.
  • Disease. Some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sjögren's syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes can all cause dry mouth.
  • Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.
  • Chemotherapy. Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry.
  • Nerve damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that tell salivary glands to make saliva.

What Can I Do

  • Sip water or sugarless drinks often. Avoid addition of citrus fruit such as lemon (the acidic environment promotes bacterial growth).
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas. Caffeine can dry out the mouth.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks, as the carbonation (fizzy bubbles) creates an acidic environment, which allows the harmful decay-causing bacteria to thrive in the mouth.
  • Sip water or a sugarless drink during meals. This will make chewing and swallowing easier. It may also improve the taste of food.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow.
  • Avoid tobacco or alcohol use. They dry out the mouth.
  • Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth.
  • Use a humidifier at night.
  • Consider using products designed to stimulate saliva production, and or to prevent the damaging effects from decay-causing bacteria by decreasing bacterial growth.

Tips to Keep Your Teeth Healthy

Remember, if you have dry mouth, you need to be extra careful to keep your teeth clean. Make sure you:

  • Gently brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Floss your teeth once a day.
  • Use toothpaste with fluoride. Most toothpastes sold at grocery and drug stores have fluoride in them. Any toothpaste approved by the Canadian Dental Association will likely contain fluoride.
  • Avoid sticky, sugary foods. If you do eat them, brush afterwards.
  • Try not to snack or eat frequently. Stick to only eating three meals daily.
  • Visit your dentist for a check-up at least twice a year.

Products to Consider

ClinPro toothpaste (3M)
higher amount of fluoride


PreviDent toothpaste (Colgate)
higher amount of fluoride


Dry mouth patch (time release) to stimulate saliva flow


Biotene Products
Spray, gel (smear on soft tissue/gums), mouth rinse & chewing gum to stimulate salivary flow


Xylitol Products
XyliMelts - Time-release adhering discs
Spry - Chewing gum
X-Pur - Chewing gum and mints