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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

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.

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