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Oral Health Topics

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)

Key Points

  • Severity of xerostomia or dry mouth symptoms ranges from mild oral discomfort to significant oral disease that can compromise the patient’s health, dietary intake, and quality of life.
  • Causes of dry mouth can include toxicity from chemotherapy, head and neck radiotherapy, adverse effects of medications, autoimmune disease, or other conditions (e.g., uncontrolled diabetes, infections, hormonal changes). Xerostomia occurs commonly in those with Sjögren disease or who are receiving radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.
  • Reduced salivary flow can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking; it can also increase the chance of developing dental decay, demineralization of teeth, tooth sensitivity, and/or oral infections.
  • The goals of treating xerostomia include identifying the possible cause(s), relieving discomfort, and preventing complications (e.g., dental caries and periodontal infections).
  • Xerostomia may be alleviated by use of saliva substitutes and other palliative measures; lifestyle tips (e.g., chewing sugar-free gum) and other dental/oral health specific recommendations (e.g., brushing teeth gently at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste) may help provide relief from or prevent adverse sequelae of dry mouth.
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Causes of Xerostomia
  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Dental Implications of Xerostomia
  • References
  • ADA Resources
  • Other Resources
Prepared by: Center for Scientific Information, ADA Science Institute
Topic updated: August 27, 2018


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