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HealthInfo Canterbury

Dry mouth

Dry mouthIf your body doesn't make enough saliva to wet (lubricate) the inside of your mouth, you will get a dry mouth. This can cause problems with speech, taste, chewing and swallowing. It also increases your risk of developing tooth decay and getting mouth infections.

Symptoms of a dry mouth can include:

Causes of a dry mouth

Many things can cause a dry mouth. These are some of the common causes.

Being unwell

Some auto-immune conditions, such as Sjogren syndrome and Parkinson disease can cause a dry mouth. It can also be a symptom of HIV/Aids, diabetes, and anxiety disorders.

Radiation therapy

People who have had radiation to their head and neck have a high risk of getting a dry mouth. This is partly because they produce less saliva.


Some drugs used in chemotherapy may make your saliva thick, so your mouth feels dry. This is usually temporary.


A dry mouth can be a side effect of many medications, including those used to treat depression, persistent pain, allergies and high blood pressure.

Nerve damage

A head or neck injury, or a stroke can damage the nerves of your salivary glands, which then don't produce enough saliva.

Other causes

Dehydration, smoking, and age-related changes, such as menopause, can cause a dry mouth.

How to treat a dry mouth

Foods you may need to avoid

FDP Healthy breakfastSome foods make a dry mouth worse. Try to avoid them. They include:

Soften cereals and muesli by adding milk and leaving them to soak for a few minutes, or mixing with yoghurt and leaving in the fridge overnight.

Things you can do to moisten your mouth

Talk to your dentist, radiation team, or speech language therapist about a mouthwash that will be suitable.


Chewing gum

Chew sugar-free chewing gum, preferably containing xylitol. You can get this from a supermarket or chemist.

Moistener, lubricating gel, or artificial saliva

Talk to your dentist or speech-language therapist about using oral lubricants such as GC Dry Mouth Gel or Biotene Oral Balance.

Other remedies

You should also talk to your dentist about how to protect your teeth from the dental decay that often happens when you have a dry mouth.

Written by Nutrition and Dietetics, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2018.

See also:

Carer's guide to mouth care

Mouth care when you are sick

Page reference: 74891

Review key: HIDRY-74891