Dry mouth (xerostomia) is caused by a decrease in saliva production. Certain types of chemotherapy, radiation, medications, and graft-versus-host disease have been associated with dry mouth.

Dry mouth can affect taste. Taste components of food must be in liquid form to reach the taste receptor cells. Saliva is a vehicle for foods’ taste stimuli, therefore when there is less saliva, there is less taste. Thick saliva is more concentrated and salty than thin saliva, which affects sweet, bitter, and sour tastes. Dry mouths are more acidic than moist mouths, which affects sweet and sour tastes.

Chronic or long-term dry mouth can increase the risks of cavities, gum disease, and tooth breakage.

Signs and symptoms of dry mouth

  • Metallic taste
  • Thick saliva
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth sores

Recommendations

  • Keep your mouth moist. Drink 2 liters (about 64 oz) of fluids daily. Examples include milk shakes, non-citrus sports drinks, nutritional drinks, and water. Do not drink caffeine or alcohol-containing beverages.
  • Use Biotene® mouth rinse and/or mouth care line of products (available at drug stores and other “big box” stores).
  • Use artificial saliva.
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy. The xylitol in these products help increase saliva production.
  • Salt and soda rinse for gummy mouth
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons baking soda
    • 4 cups of warm water
      • This rinse helps to neutralize acid in your mouth and will help dissolve or loosen thick, gummy saliva. Don't drink the solution. Just swish around in your mouth and spit out.
      • This rinse should be made daily.
  • Club soda rinse for sore mouth
    • Use canned or bottled club soda. Let the soda “go flat” (lose its carbonation) by leaving the top off. Use at room temperature. Swish soda around in your mouth and spit out.
  • Avoid irritating drinks, such as ginger beer or grapefruit juice.
  • Avoid coarse or dry foods.
  • Avoid very hot or very cold foods.
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months.
  • Brush your teeth after meals and at bedtime with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Do NOT smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Use lip balm to keep your lips moist. Sun exposure can make symptoms worse, therefore use a lip balm with a SPF of 15 or higher.