What Causes Dry Mouth?

Conditions list medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA

Dry mouth is also known as xerostomia. It’s a condition that happens when salivary glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva. It causes a parched, or dry, feeling in your mouth. It can also cause other symptoms, such as rough tongue, mouth... Read More

Dry mouth is also known as xerostomia. It’s a condition that happens when salivary glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva. It causes a parched, or dry, feeling in your mouth. It can also cause other symptoms, such as rough tongue, mouth sores, and cracked lips.

Saliva is a necessary part of your digestion process. It helps moisten and break down food. It also works as a major defense mechanism to help your body maintain good dental health, protecting your mouth against gum disease and tooth decay. 

Dry mouth isn’t a serious medical condition on its own. But it’s sometimes a symptom of another underlying medical problem that requires treatment. It can also lead to complications, such as tooth decay.

What causes dry mouth?

Many things can cause dry mouth. It often results from dehydration. Some diseases, such as diabetes, can also affect your saliva production and lead to dry mouth. Certain medications and supplements, such as appetite suppressants and chemotherapy drugs, can also cause dry mouth.

Some of the other causes of dry mouth include:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • smoking tobacco
  • using marijuana
  • taking tranquilizers
  • undergoing radiation therapy on your head or neck
  • some autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Sjogren's syndrome
  • botulism poisoning
  • aging

How is dry mouth treated?

Dry mouth is usually a temporary and treatable condition. In most cases, you can prevent and relieve symptoms of dry mouth by doing one or more of the following:

  • sipping water often
  • sucking on ice cubes
  • avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • limiting your salt and sugar intake
  • using a humidifier in your bedroom when you sleep
  • taking over-the-counter saliva substitutes
  • chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy
  • over- the-counter toothpastes, rinses, and mints

If your dry mouth is caused by an underlying health condition, you may require additional treatment. Ask your doctor for more information about your specific condition, treatment options, and long-term outlook.

Medically reviewed by Christine Frank, DDS on October 30, 2016Written by The Healthline Editorial Team


24 possible conditions

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose. Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.

Conditions list medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA