About 10% of general population and 25% of older people experience a dry mouth (xerostomia). Rather than being a disease in itself, it is usually a symptom of an underlying problem.

Dry mouth can be caused by:

  • Prescription medications – antidepressants, decongestants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, appetite suppressants, diuretics
  • Illegal drugs – cocaine, ice, heroine
  • Dehydration
  • Autoimmune diseases – eg.  Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Infections of salivary glands – eg. Mumps
  • Salivary duct obstruction
  • Nerve problems/ damage to facial nerve controlling salivary glands
  • Cancer treatment – chemo or radiotherapy
  • Habits – eg. breathing through the mouth
  • Hormone changes – eg. in pregnancy or menopause

Signs and Symptoms include:

  • Dryness and sticky feeling in the mouth
  • Chapped dry lips
  • Rough, dry tongue
  • Bad breath
  • Waking up at night feeling thirsty
  • Problems speaking
  • Difficulty eating dry foods
  • Problems wearing dentures
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Susceptibility to oral thrush infections
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • High rate of tooth decay
  • Inflamed, bleeding gums

Diagnosis may include:

  • Physical exam of the mouth to check for dry, rough cheeks, lips and tongue
  • Tooth examination – excessive tooth decay especially around the gum margin
  • Salivary tests – eg. rolling out lower lip and patting dry. Normally it should remoisten within 30 seconds
  • Checking medical history, including any diseases/conditions and medicines being taken


  • Changes to medicines or their doses
  • Saliva substitutes
  • Dry mouth products which include lubricants – toothpastes, gels, gum, mouthwashes
  • Treatment of underlying conditions – eg. Antibiotics for infections, surgery for salivary glands blockage
  • Increasing fluid intake
  • Avoiding crunchy, dry, sugary, acidic foods and drinks
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, mint-flavoured substances
  • Chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow
  • Following strict oral hygiene protocol including fluoride products to prevent cavities and gum disease
  • Visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and early treatment if necessary

Do you think you may suffer from a dry mouth? Please contact Elwood Dental Group on 9531 6387 or email us on info@elwooddental.com.au for more information or to book an appointment .