Dry Mouth: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Unhappy woman. Caption: Learn about causes and treatments of dry mouth here.

Saliva plays an important role in oral health and digestion. When you eat, particles of food become stuck to your teeth or trapped between them, where they can provide nourishment for decay-causing bacteria. Saliva helps flush away these food particles and dilute the acid that bacteria secrete, protecting your teeth from harm. Saliva can also kill many of the bacteria that would otherwise cause cavities, and it aids in the digestion of food. When your mouth is dry, none of these things can happen, and the lack of saliva can have serious effects on your dental health—as well as being a sign of some major underlying problems.


There are numerous possible causes of dry mouth, including:

  • Smoking
  • Medications
  • Diseases including HIV, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and many others
  • Nerve damage
  • Dehydration


Aside from the feeling of stickiness or dryness in your mouth, the condition’s symptoms include cracked lips, sores at the corners of your mouth, burning or tingling, and problems speaking or swallowing. Dry mouth is also a cause of bad breath, due to the overdevelopment of bacteria without saliva to wash them away.

While dry mouth is a problem in and of itself, it can point to other serious conditions including Sjorgen’s syndrome and diabetes. If you are experiencing an unexplained dry mouth, you should see a doctor for a diagnosis. You should also continue to visit our office regularly.


The treatment for dry mouth usually depends on the cause. If it is due to medication, your doctor may adjust your prescription. You may also be prescribed a medication to increase your production of saliva, or a rinse to keep your mouth moist.

Other general tips include:

  • Make sure to drink water frequently
  • If possible, breathe through your nose rather than your mouth
  • Use a vaporizer to keep the air in your environment humid
  • Take extra care with your dental hygiene, making sure to brush regularly and visit our office
  • Chew gum or suck on candy to encourage saliva production
  • Use an artificial saliva substitute, which you can purchase over the counter

The Most Important Questions

Dry mouth is an inconvenience, but it can also serve as an important warning that something is not right with your health. If you notice these symptoms, you should go to your doctor right away to determine the cause. The next most important concern is the continuing effect of dry mouth on your health—and for that, Dental Partners of Boston are here to help. Contact us for an appointment, and let us help preserve your oral health.

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