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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, medication intake, autoimmune diseases (e.g., Sjögren disease) or other conditions (e.g., uncontrolled diabetes, infections, hormonal changes).
  • Reduced salivary flow can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking; it can also increase the chance of developing dental caries, 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 interventions (e.g., chewing sugar-free gum). 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
Topic updated: February 22, 2021

Prepared by:

Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC.


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