Preventing and Treating Dry Mouth


how to treat dry mouth

Ever wake up with a really dry mouth? Or notice your throat is parched and scratchy throughout the day? 

Dry mouth (or xerostomia) happens when the salivary glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva. This not only causes an uncomfortably dry mouth, but can also increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Why? Dry mouth causes cavities because saliva helps neutralize acids in your mouth, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Without adequate saliva, decay is simply more likely to happen. Saliva also improves your ability to taste, helps you chew and swallow more easily, and aids in digestion.

If dry mouth is interfering with your appetite and enjoyment of food—or impacting your general and oral health—read on to learn more about what causes the condition, and how to alleviate and treat your symptoms.

What causes dry mouth

Dry mouth can be caused by a number of reasons, including: 

  • Stress
  • Certain medications (such as antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, diuretics, and others)
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Cancer treatment
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, or other systemic conditions like diabetes
  • Anxiety (which can cause a host of physical symptoms like heart palpitations, memory problems, aches and pains, dry mouth, tooth pain, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system)
  • Smoking

In many of these cases, dry mouth is simply a symptom of an underlying condition, or a side effect of another medication or treatment. When we can address the root cause, we can figure out how to fix dry mouth. However, in the meantime—or when that’s not possible (in the instance of cancer treatment, for example)—there are several remedies you can try at home to ease your symptoms.

How to Treat Dry Mouth

To restore moisture and ease discomfort, try these safe, effective methods for treating dry mouth

  • Drink water: It might sound obvious, but dehydration can be a factor in dry mouth. So make sure your getting enough water! The Mayo Clinic recommends men drink 3.7 liters and women drink 2.7 liters each day. Also, don’t forget that sipping water throughout the day has added benefits for your oral health—it helps rinse away food particles and rid your mouth of decay-causing bacteria, which is especially helpful when your saliva flow is lower than normal.
  • Chew sugar-free gum: Chewing sugar-free gum, or sucking on sugar-free candies can stimulate saliva flow, temporarily dry mouth relieving symptoms. Just be sure to choose sugar-free products to avoid tooth decay.
  • Go for decaf: Did you know caffeine has a drying effect on your mouth? Opt for decaf coffee, herbal tea, and other decaffeinated versions of your favorite beverages to prevent dryness from getting worse.
  • Breathe through your nose: Mouth-breathing can also dry out your mouth, so try to breath through your nose when you can. If chronic allergies or congestion prevent you from doing so, your primary care doctor can help figure out a solution, so you can breathe easier—and alleviate dry mouth symptoms.
  • Use a humidifier: Consistently breathing dry air can, naturally, dry out your mouth. Place a humidifier in rooms where you spend a lot of time—your bedroom or office—to add more moisture to your environment.
  • Rinse with alcohol-free mouthwash: Mouthwash containing alcohol can exacerbate dryness. Instead, consider an alcohol-free product or one containing xylitol, which has been shown to promote saliva production. Prescription and over-the-counter mouthwashes designed for dry mouth (as well as artificial saliva) can also be effective.
  • Quit smoking: Cigarettes slow down your body’s production of saliva, so cutting down or quitting smoking can help reduce dry mouth symptoms. (Not sure where to start? Feel free to reach out to our staff for advice.)

For severe dry mouth, you may also benefit from taking medication to stimulate saliva production. Custom fluoride trays—which you’ll fill with fluoride gel and wear overnight—can also help control cavities.

Lastly, be sure to brush and floss daily. Since dry mouth puts you at risk for developing cavities and gum disease, it’s extra important to take good care of your teeth.

While we all experience a dry mouth from time-to-time, if you’re experiencing frequent and bothersome dryness, come see us at Cottonwood Dental. Dr. Giaquinto can help identify the cause of your dry mouth and create a treatment plan so you can feel your best again.

About The Author

Dr. David Giaquinto, DDS

Dentist at Cottonwood Dental

Dentistry is a profession that requires many layers of knowledge and training. My background encompasses three post-grad degrees along with a command of aesthetics and precision. Both of those are necessary when creating the great results that we promise our patients. Being a graduate of the University of New Mexico and Marquette University School of Dentistry has provided me with a launching point for my practice at Cottonwood Dental. My ongoing research… [Read full bio]