Dry mouth

Dry mouth (xerostomia)

A dry mouth (xerostomia) can occur when your salivary glands do not produce enough saliva. Some people experience a dry mouth when they are nervous or dehydrated. For others it can be caused by an underlying problem or medical condition.

There are things you can do to help ease it yourself. See a GP if these do not work or you also have other symptoms.

Causes of dry mouth

The main causes of a dry mouth are:

  • dehydration – for example, from not drinking enough, sweating a lot or being ill
  • medicines – check the information leaflet to see if dry mouth is a side effect
  • breathing through your mouth at night – this can happen if you have a blocked nose or you sleep with your mouth open
  • anxiety
  • cancer treatment (radiotherapy or chemotherapy)
  • oral thrush (mouth thrush)

Sometimes a dry mouth that doesn't go away may be caused by a condition like diabetes or Sjögren's syndrome.

Self-help

Do:

  • drink plenty of water - take regular sips during the day and keep some water by your bed at night
  • suck on ice cubes or ice lollies
  • sip on cold unsweetened drinks
  • chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free sweets
  • use lip balm if your lips are also dry
  • brush your teeth twice a day and use alcohol-free mouth wash - you're more likely to get tooth decay if you have a dry mouth

Don’t:

  • drink lots of alcohol, caffeine (such as tea and coffee) or fizzy drinks
  • use acidic artificial saliva products (like Glandosane aerosol spray) if you have your own teeth
  • have foods that are acidic (like lemons), spicy, salty or sugary
  • smoke
  • sleep with dentures in
  • stop taking a prescribed medicine without getting medical advice first – even if you think it might be causing your symptoms

A pharmacist can help if you have a dry mouth

Ask a pharmacist about treatments you can buy to help keep your mouth moist.

You can get:

  • gels
  • sprays
  • tablets or lozenges

Not all products are suitable for everyone. Ask a pharmacist for advice about the best one for you.

If your dry mouth might be caused by a blocked nose, a pharmacist may suggest decongestants to unblock it.

When to see a GP

See a GP if:

  • your mouth is still dry after trying home or pharmacy treatments for a few weeks
  • you have difficulty chewing, swallowing or talking
  • you're struggling to eat regularly
  • you are having problems with your sense of taste that are not going away
  • your mouth is painful, red, swollen or bleeding
  • you have sore white patches in your mouth
  • you think a prescribed medicine might be causing your dry mouth
  • you have other symptoms, like needing to pee a lot or dry eyes

They can check what the cause might be and recommend treatment for it.



The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 31/01/2024 14:19:30