In this article we will outline the common dry mouth treatment options, including what you can do at home to help manage the problem. As you may know, this condition (also known as xerostomia) is a common one, and can lead to a lot of discomfort.
Always seek medical advice if you develop the problem.
Managing the cause of the problem
Any dry mouth treatment plan must first involve a consideration of the causes. If possible, these should be eliminated or reduced, for example in the following ways:
- Reduction in dose or changing of a prescribed drug, if this is the cause. This, of course, is done in liaison with your physician and only done if the benefits outweigh any risks.
- Eliminating over-the-counter (otc) drugs that lead to the problem. These include antihistamines and decongestants.
- Ensuring proper hydration, if dehydration is a factor, is an important xerostomia treatment step.
- Avoiding tobacco, alcohol and caffeine-containing products such as coffee.
Of course, it is not always as simple as eliminating the cause of the problem. We will next look at how the condition can be managed in such cases.
Managing Dry Mouth
If the salivary glands are still functioning, but have a reduced flow for some reason, then a salivary stimulant medication (“sialogogues”) may be prescribed. Pilocarpine (Salagen) is one such drug that may help. In Sjogren’s Syndrome, Cevimeline (Evoxac) is sometimes prescribed to treat xerostomia.
If there is no salivary flow, say due to a medical condition or trauma, then stimulants will not be of any use. In such cases, ‘artificial saliva’ treatment products are most likely to be the best management option.
Artificial saliva can be delivered in the form of a spray (like Salivart – also used for dry throat), lozenges or a gel. The aim here, is to manage the dry mouth symptoms by introducing a saliva substitute. Natural saliva cannot be replaced in the same quantity or frequency, but these salivary substitutes (eg Oralube, Optimoist) can make the problem much more comfortable and provide great relief for sufferers.
Some patients report that acupuncture helps relieve their symptoms.
Home help for managing sympoms of xerostomia
Here are some remedies that many may find useful in reliving and reducing their symptoms:
- Sip on water (or some other sugar-free beverage), little and often is best. Have a glass of water when having a meal, not only to aid eating but also to improve taste.
- Keep in mind the causes of xerostomia. As mentioned above, reduce caffeine and alcohol intake and do not smoke or chew tobacco.
- Chew on sugar-free gum (with xylitol) or sweets.
- Using a humidifier in the room while you sleep may be of use. This is especially useful for ‘mouth-breathers’.
As reduced saliva can lead to various dental problems, it is vitally important that you take good care of your teeth. Brush twice daily, floss and use a fluoride-containing, or biotene mouthwash. For more info see our guide to oral hygiene.
There are a variety of options used for dry mouth treatment. They include reducing the causes, stimulating saliva flow or artificially replacing saliva. Always ask your dentist or doctor for advice on how to get your problem treated.
Keeping your teeth healthy (a general guide but very important if you have xerostomia).