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What is Xerostomia?

Xerostomia or dry mouth is a condition of the mouth where reduced or absent salivary flow occurs. Although xerostomia is a common side effect of many medications, it may also be a symptom associated with other health conditions1,2. Xerostomia may contribute to minor and potentially major health concerns as nutrition and dental health may be significantly affected1.

What is The Importance of Saliva?

Saliva plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth1. Without proper salivary flow, the natural benefits that saliva provides are reduced and may result in various negative and uncomfortable outcomes.

The following are some of the natural functions/benefits salivae provides 1

  • Antimicrobial activity
  • Mechanical cleansing of the mouth
  • Controls the pH of the oral cavity
  • Removal of food debris
  • Lubrication of oral cavity
  • Remineralization
  • Maintaining the integrity of the oral mucosa

Signs and symptoms

The severity of xerostomia varies from person to person and there are many different ways it may affect your mouth and teeth. It is not uncommon that you may experience more than one symptom at a time1.

The following is a list of common signs and symptoms that may be associated with dry mouth1,2

  • Burning sensation of the mouth
  • Constant thirst (especially at night time)
  • Difficulty talking
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Hoarseness and/or dry nasal passages
  • Taste alterations
  • Gingivitis
  • Painful tongue
  • Discomfort wearing dentures

Inflammation or ulcers on the cheeks or tongue

  • Oral candidiasis (yeast infection of the mouth)
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Sensitive teeth

Risks involved with xerostomia

The sooner xerostomia is detected the sooner you can act to prevent or reduce the discomfort and negative effects of it. As discussed earlier saliva plays an important role in maintaining good oral health so when it’s absent or reduced, the effects of that are likely going to make a negative impact on the mouth.

The following is a list of common negative effects of untreated xerostomia1,2. (Also see list of signs and symptoms listed above)

  • Decreases pH of the oral cavity (which makes bad bacteria thrive and increases risk of infection)
  • Increases the development of plaque and dental caries (cavities)
  • Oral candidiasis (yeast infection of the mouth)
  • Reduces quality of life

What causes Xerostomia?

There are various causes of xerostomia, but some of the most common causes are listed below1,2

  • Adverse effects of Medications
  • Sjögren disease
  • Toxicity from chemotherapy
  • Head and neck radiotherapy
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Uncontrolled hypertension

Treatment options

It is important to identify the underlying cause of xerostomia to best be able to treat the symptoms. For many people, little can be done to eliminate the root cause, so it is often a matter of finding treatments to cope with the symptoms and reducing the discomfort.2

Tips for comfort1,2

  • Brush your teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste
  • Floss every day
  • Drink lots of water
  • Visit a dentist at least twice a year
  • Reduce your sodium and sugar intake
  • Avoid caffeine, smoking, alcohol and oral rinses containing alcohol
  • Try using saliva substitutes (ask your dentist or dental hygienist about what’s available)
  • Try xylitol gum/candies

Always address your medical concerns to your health care professionals and if you have specific questions or concerns regarding your oral health, schedule an appointment with Davis Dental Care to find the best treatment option available for your needs. With the best Newmarket dentists, we promise to take care of your oral health.


Bartel, C. M., Pharm.D. (February 6, 2017). Xerostomia. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://oralcancerfoundation.org/complications/xerostomia/

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). (2017, September 12). Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/xerostomia