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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Dry mouth

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If your body doesn't make enough saliva to wet (lubricate) the inside of your mouth, you'll 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 Sjögren's 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, chronic (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 do not produce enough saliva.

Other causes

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

Treating 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.

Ways to moisten your mouth

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 March 2022.

See also:

Carer's guide to mouth care

Oral hygiene & saliva management

Page reference: 74891

Review key: HIDRY-74891