There are many remedies for dry mouth. You can try some of them on your own. Your doctor may prescribe others. Here are some many people find useful:
- Chewing gum and hard candy. If your salivary glands still produce some saliva, you can stimulate them to make more by chewing gum or sucking on hard candy. However, gum and candy must be sugar-free, because dry mouth makes you extremely prone to progressive dental decay (cavities).
- Water. Take sips of water or another sugar-free, noncarbonated drink throughout the day to wet your mouth, especially when you are eating or talking. Note that drinking large amounts of liquid throughout the day will not make your mouth any less dry and will make you urinate more often. You should only take small sips of liquid, but not too often. If you sip liquids every few minutes, it may reduce or remove the mucus coating inside your mouth, increasing the feeling of dryness.
- Lip balm. You can soothe dry, cracked lips by using oil- or petroleum-based lip balm or lipstick. If your mouth hurts, your doctor may give you medicine in a mouth rinse, ointment, or gel to apply to the sore areas to control pain and inflammation.
- Saliva substitutes. If you produce very little saliva or none at all, your doctor might recommend a saliva substitute. These products mimic some of the properties of saliva, which means they make the mouth feel wet. Gel-based saliva substitutes tend to give the longest relief, but as with all saliva products, their effectiveness is limited by the fact that you eventually swallow them. It is best to use these products rather than water when awakening from sleep: They reduce oral symptoms more effectively, and they do not cause excessive urine formation.
- Prescription medications. At least two prescription drugs stimulate the salivary glands to produce saliva. These are pilocarpine and cevimeline. The effects last for a few hours, and you can take them three or four times a day. However, they are not suitable for everyone, so talk to your doctor about whether they might help you. In trials of these drugs, patients have also experienced some reduction in their dry eye symptoms.
In addition to treatments for dry mouth itself, some people need treatment for its complications. For example, people with dry mouth can easily get a mouth infection from a common yeast called Candida. About one-third of people with Sjögren’s syndrome experience this infection, which is called candidiasis. Most often, it causes red patches to appear, along with a burning sensation. This occurs particularly on the tongue and corners of the lips. Candidiasis is treated with prescription antifungal drugs.
The Importance of Oral Hygiene
Natural saliva contains substances that rid the mouth of the bacteria that cause dental decay (cavities) and mouth infections, so good oral hygiene is extremely important when you have dry mouth. Here’s what you can do to prevent cavities and infections:
- Visit a dentist regularly, at least twice a year, to have your teeth examined and cleaned.
- Rinse your mouth with water several times a day. Don’t use mouthwash that contains alcohol, because alcohol is drying.
- Use toothpaste that contains fluoride to gently brush your teeth, gums, and tongue after each meal and before bedtime. Nonfoaming toothpaste is less drying.
- Floss your teeth every day.
- Avoid sugar between meals. That means choosing sugar-free gum, candy, and soda. If you do eat or drink sugary foods, brush your teeth immediately afterward.
- See a dentist right away if you notice anything unusual or have continuous burning or other oral symptoms.
- Ask your dentist whether you need to take fluoride supplements, use a fluoride gel at night, or have a varnish put on your teeth to protect the enamel.