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Oral Health Topics

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)

Key Points

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth occurs commonly, especially 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.
  • Severity of dry mouth symptoms may range 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).
  • 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: September 12, 2017


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