Xerostomia is a medical term used for dry mouth. This condition occurs when there is lack of saliva, no enough saliva to keep the mouth wet, or there is reduced or absent in saliva flow. It is associated (not always) with hypofunction of the salivary glands.

Xerostomia may also result from a change in composition of saliva (from serous to mucous).It may interest you to know that, Xerostomia is not a disease; it is a symptom, just like headache, but can have substantial knock-on effects on our health.

An unstimulated whole saliva flow rate in a normal person is 0.3–0.4 ml per minute and below 0.1 ml per minute is significantly abnormal. A stimulated saliva flow rate less than 0.5 ml per gland in 5 minutes or less than 1 ml per gland in 10 minutes is decreased.


  • Inadequate function of the salivary gland
  • Medications: Many prescribed drugs as well over-the-counter medications can cause dry mouth, including antihistamines, hypertensive medications (forhigh blood pressure), anti-diarrheal, muscle relaxants, urinary continence drugs.
  • Age: Dry mouth is more prevalent in the aging population. Old age may not be a dry mouth risk factor, but elderly individuals tend to take more medications (that could cause dry mouth) than the rest of the population.
  • Cancer treatment:Radiotherapy (radiation therapy) to the head and neck region can cause damage to the salivary glands, resulting in the production of less saliva. Chemotherapy on the other hand, can alter the nature of the saliva and how much of it the body produces.
  • Injury or surgery: May result in nerve damage to the head and neck area, thereby causing dry mouth.
  • Tobacco: Either chewing or smoking tobacco increases the risk of dry mouth symptoms.
  • Dehydration: Caused by lack of sufficient fluids.
  • Exercising or playing in the heat: The salivary glands may become dry as the bodily fluids are concentrated elsewhere in the body. Dry mouth symptoms are more likely if the exercise or playing continues for a long time.

Other Health Conditions and habits that can cause Dry Mouth includes:

  • Anxietydisorders
  • Sarcoidosis or amyloidosis
  • Depression
  • Poorly controlled diabetes.
  • Sleeping with an opened mouth.
  • Stroke.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Spicy foods
  • Sugary drinks



  • Dryness in the mouth.
  • Bad breath.
  • Cracked lips.
  • Taste disorders.
  • Fungal infections in the mouth, such as thrush.
  • Painful tongue (Glossodynia).
  • Inflammation of the tongue, tongue ulcers.
  • More frequent gum disease.
  • More tooth decay and plaque.
  • Problems swallowing and chewing, especially dry and crumbly foods, such as crackers or cereals.
  • Sore throat.
  • Sticky saliva.


Depending on the cause, dry mouth syndrome may also be associated with the following symptoms:


  • Dry and itchy eyes.
  • Dry nose or throat.
  • Frequent coughing.
  • Reduced sense of smell.
  • Joint pains or stiffness.
  • Feeling unwell generally.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Frequent vaginal thrush infections in women.


  • Maintaining proper dental or oral hygiene, such as regular flossing and brushing of teeth.
  • Water is a better choice than soft drinks or fruit juices. Drink water, not soda, to keep your mouth fresh and moist.
  • Some artificial saliva rinses or sprays can help you get rid of dry mouth.
  • It is advised that you chew gums without sugar to stimulate the salivary gland when the mouth seems to be getting dry.
  • Avoid spicy foods and sugary drinks.
  • Always breathe through the nose rather than the mouth, this helps to keep the mouth moist.
  • Excessively hot or cold drinks.
  • Avoid or minimize alcohol consumption.
  • Minimize caffeine consumption.
  • Chewing or smoking tobacco should be avoided.


Sailometry, Sailography or Biopsy can be used to diagnose xerostomia.

  • Medications causing the condition is reduced or stopped
  • Medications to stimulate the production of saliva may be prescribed. For example, pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac)
  • Plaque removal and treatment of gingival infections, inflammation and dental caries
  • Wearing dentures during sleep (the dentures should be kept clean by overnight soaking).
  • Chewing xylitol-containing gum, using a carboxymethyl cellulose saliva substitute as a mouthwash or Sipping sugarless and non-carbonated fluids may help.
  • Eating foods such as carrots or celery can help to boost salivary gland function.

It advisable you see your Doctor or Dentist, if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Article By: eDokita Team


  1. Christian Nordquist, ‘Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment’. Medical News Today. 2016
  2. Health Dental Care, ‘What to do about Dry Mouth’, 2011.
  3. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. ‘Salivary Glands: Patient Health Information. 2016.



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