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Dry Mouth: Home Treatment and Prevention - Topic Overview

Dry mouth (xerostomia) may make it hard for you to eat, talk, swallow, wear dentures, or taste food. In most cases, home treatment will relieve symptoms of a dry mouth. An ongoing dry mouth can lead to mouth infections, gum disease, and dental cavities.

Some causes of dry mouth include dehydration, breathing through your mouth, stress or anxiety, smoking, and problems with how the salivary glands work, so you make less saliva. Low saliva production is common as you age. It also is common with many health conditions, such as Sjögren's syndrome, or with treatments, such as cancer treatments.

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A dry mouth can also be caused by a medicine, such as a diuretic, an antihistamine, or a decongestant. If you suspect that a medicine is the cause of your dry mouth, call the doctor who prescribed the medicine to determine whether you should stop taking it or take a different one. An appointment may not be necessary. If you are taking a nonprescription medicine, stop taking it. Call your doctor if you feel that you need to continue the medicine.

Home treatment

Home treatment may help relieve symptoms of a dry mouth.

  • Take frequent sips of liquid throughout the day. Water is best.
  • Use ice chips and sugar-free items such as gum, hard candy and lollipops, frozen fruit juices, and soft drinks. They will help keep your mouth moist without promoting tooth decay.
  • Eat and drink tart foods and liquids, such as lemonade, sugar-free sour candies, and dill pickles, to help stimulate the flow of saliva.
  • Add extra liquid to foods to make them easier to chew and swallow. Drink water with meals.
  • Use nonprescription saliva substitutes that you can buy at a pharmacy.

Prevention

A dry mouth is common and can often be prevented. Try some of the following prevention measures:

  • Drink 2 qt (2 L) of water a day. This is the same as eight 8 fl oz (250 mL) glasses of water.
  • Use a humidifier in your home, especially in the bedroom.
  • Breathe through your nose rather than through your mouth.
  • Do not take medicines that cause a dry mouth. These include diuretics, antihistamines, and decongestants. Your doctor can help you find a different medicine.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, tobacco, and alcohol, all of which increase dryness in your mouth.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: July 20, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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