Dry mouth occurs when less than the normal amount of saliva is produced. This may result in the decrease of saliva and/or changes in salivary composition. Dry mouth can be caused by treatment or medications; radiation therapy can permanently damage saliva glands that are in the treatment field.

Dry mouth can be a significant health problem because it can affect the following:

  • Overall health and wellbeing
  • Taste
  • Nutrition
  • Speaking
  • eating/swallowing
  • tooth decay
  • gum disease
  • discomfort with dentures
  • mouth infections

What you can do about dry mouth

Mouth care:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Thorough cleansing of the teeth and gums is necessary to prevent oral/dental problems. After eating and at bedtime, gently brush your teeth, tongue and gums with a soft toothbrush.
  • At least 4 to 6 times per day, rinse out your mouth with the following solution:

Basic Mouthwash Recipe

  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup warm water

Mix ingredients in a clean glass; swish around in your mouth and spit out at least 4-6 times daily.

  • Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments to help prevent tooth decay

Relief tips:

Try some of the following ideas to get relief from your dry mouth:

  • Chew sugarless chewing gum
  • Frequent rinsing (see recipe above)
  • Frequent water drinking
  • Use lip balm
  • Use a mouth moisturizer (such as Toothette mouth moisturizer or Peroxamint)
  • Use sugarless lozenges
  • Drink sugar-free sodas or carbonated drinks
  • Use saliva substitutes (Biotene and Laclede are two brands)
  • Suck on ice chips
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to room air

Avoid things may irritate a dry mouth:

  • Smoking
  • Over-the-counter mouthwashes

Making eating and swallowing easier:

Even though your mouth may be sore, you still need to eat well to keep up your health during treatment. Here are some things to try:

  • Drink frequently while eating
  • Drink through a straw if that is easier for you
  • Eat small meals, more frequently instead of “3 squares”
  • Drink apple or grape juice
  • Eat soft foods such as custards, yogurt, soups, buttered noodles, Jell-O, ice cream, cooked cereals, scrambled eggs and puddings – use a blender if necessary to puree foods
  • Eat warm foods, not too hot
  • Add gravy, sauces, milk or cream to foods to make them soft and easier to swallow
  • Use nutritional supplements (like Boost or Ensure) for added calories, protein, vitamins and minerals

Avoid these foods, as they may irritate your mouth:

  • Dry breads and cereals, crackers or chips – these may be too dry or too sharp and can hurt your mouth
  • Hot, spicy or salty foods
  • Citrus juices – orange, grapefruit or tomato
  • Caffeinated drinks – coffee, tea or sodas with caffeine
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Sugary foods, which may promote tooth decay

If you have questions about dry mouth, please call our office, or ask the doctor at your next appointment (if it's soon). Let the doctor know if your dry mouth causes you to feel like you're choking or if you have trouble swallowing.