Dissatisfied woman biting into a granola bar
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Effects of Dry Mouth

When your mouth makes little or no saliva, it affects more than just your thirst. Saliva helps you taste and digest what you eat and drink. It flushes food particles from your teeth and reduces the acids that cause tooth decay.

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Woman gently touching her chapped lips
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The Dry Mouth Feeling

Lack of saliva makes the skin in and around your mouth dry and tight. Your lips may become cracked. Sores might form at the corners of your mouth. Your tongue may feel rough and dry. It may also be tough to swallow and talk.

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Smiling woman with red lipstick on her teeth
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Awkward Side Effects

Because saliva isn't flushing your mouth of food particles and debris regularly, people with dry mouth often get bad breath. If you wear lipstick, it might end up on your teeth because there’s nothing there to rinse it off. Feeling hoarse or have a tickle in your throat? Dry mouth may be the cause.

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It May Be What You're Taking

More than 400 types of medicine can cause dry mouth, including over-the-counter drugs for allergies and cold symptoms. Prescription drugs for high blood pressure, overactive bladder, and mental health problems can also cause it. Radiation can damage salivary glands, and chemotherapy can cause saliva to thicken and make your mouth feel dry.

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It Could Be in Your Head (and Neck)

Nerve damage from a head or neck injury can lead to dry mouth. Some nerves carry messages between the brain and the salivary glands. If these nerves are damaged, they may not be able to tell the salivary glands to make saliva.

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Lymphocytes in the salivary gland of a Sjogrens pa
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Other Conditions May Cause It

Dry mouth can be caused by a medical condition called Sjögren's syndrome. It's an autoimmune disorder in which white blood cells attack the body's tear and salivary glands. People with diabetes or HIV can also get dry mouth.

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Smoking Can Make It Worse

There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking, and having dry mouth is one of them. Smoking doesn’t cause dry mouth. But smoking cigarettes or cigars, or using pipes or other tobacco products, even smokeless ones, can aggravate it.

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A Doctor Can Treat It

Talk to your doctor or dentist if you're suffering from dry mouth. If you're not taking medications that cause it, your symptoms might point to an undiagnosed medical condition like Sjögren's syndrome or diabetes.

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Dentist showing woman how to floss properly
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Take Care of Your Teeth

A lack of saliva can be harmful to your teeth. Regular dental checkups are essential if you have dry mouth. Brush and floss every day. If you can't brush after eating, rinse. Sip water frequently throughout the day, and use alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwash daily.

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Pharmacist explaining medication to woman
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Some Tips to Boost Saliva Production

  • Check with your doctor to see if medicine would help.
  • Sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugar-free gum can do the trick.
  • Over-the-counter products help relieve dry mouth symptoms.
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Woman drinking water
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More Tips to Help Dry Mouth

  • Sipping water frequently will help keep your mouth moist.
  • Drinking water or milk with meals increases moisture and helps with chewing and swallowing.
  • Sleep in a room with a humidifier. You may feel better in the morning.
  • Steer clear of sugary, acidic, or caffeinated drinks.
  • See your dentist for regular cleanings and exams.



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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/20/2019 Reviewed by Evan Frisbee, DMD on November 20, 2019


(1)    Thomas Northcut / Photodisc
(2)    Stockbyte
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(4)    Tom Grill / Iconica
(5)    Jupiter Images / Comstock
(6)    Copyright © 2011 Photo Researchers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(7)    corina moldovan-florea / flickr
(8)    Monica Rodriguez / Lifesize
(9)  Keith Brofsky / Stockbyte
(10)  Apostrophe Productions / Photodisc
(11)  Christopher Robbins / Photodisc


American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery: "Smell and Taste," "Salivary Glands," "Antihistamines, Decongestants and Cold Remedies" 

American Dental Association: "Oral Health Topics: Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)"

FDA Consumer Updates: "Dry Mouth? Don’t Delay Treatment."

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: "Dry Mouth."

"Dry Mouth: What Can I Do?”

National Institutes of Health: “Effect of Long-term smoking on Whole-mouth Salivary Flow Rate and Oral Health.”

Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation: "Sjogren's FAQ's."

University of Iowa Health Science Relations: "Salivary Gland Disorders."

Reviewed by Evan Frisbee, DMD on November 20, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.