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Why is my mouth so dry?

Have you ever used any of these words to describe your mouth; cotton mouth, dry mouth, parched, or even Sahara desert? You’re not alone! Dry mouth is common for many adults and 20% of elderly people. The clinical term for dry mouth is xerostomia, but we’ll call it “dry mouth”. It’s not a disease but a side effect of an underlying condition or the treatment of that condition. Not only is it uncomfortable but it can also interfere with your speech and swallowing,  it causes bad breath, makes wearing dentures difficult, and can worsen your oral hygiene by lowering the pH in your mouth and increasing bacterial growth. What many patients don’t realize is that prolonged dry mouth can cause severe tooth decay.

The most common culprit for dry mouth is medications. According to, the types of medications most likely to create the symptoms of dry mouth include antidepressants and antianxiety drugs, antihypertensives, antihistamines and decongestants, some analgesics, antidiarrheal medications, muscle relaxants, and drugs that treat urinary incontinence and Parkinson’s disease. The provides list of medications associated with dry mouth.

Another common cause is head and neck radiation therapy. Systemic diseases can cause dry mouth including autoimmune diseases (particularly Sjogren’s and lupus), poorly-controlled diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s, and 60% of bone marrow transplant recipients.

So you’re probably asking what you can do about it? Here’s a list treatment options to help moisten the mouth and protect the teeth against decay.

  • If possible, change the medication that’s causing the dry mouth
  • Sipping water or melting ice in the mouth (don’t chew on ice!)
  • Prescription fluoride toothpaste such as Fluoridex or Prevident
  • Biotene and ACT Dry mouth rinses
  • Avoid using products containing the drying agent SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) Sensodyne does not contain SLS and is a great toothpaste.
  • OTC fluoride or xylitol mouth rinses (ACT Dry Mouth Mouthwash)
  • Regular use of xylitol products (first listed ingredient) that stimulate salivary flow and discourage decay causing bacteria (Spry and Ice breakers gum)
  • Gels that neutralize oral pH such as Biotene gel.
  • Application of vitamin E-containing ointment to dry lips
  • For many of our Gilbert dental patients we make customized fluoride trays for use with remineralizing agents such as MI Paste.

I was shopping at Wal-Mart last week in Gilbert and thought I’d share a photo of the products that we recommend to our Gilbert patients.


The Biotene and ACT dry mouth rinses are great products and many of our Gilbert patients prefer to use them. Biotene’s dry mouth gel or spray is great to apply on the insides of your cheeks and gums prior to bedtime to reduce that dry mouth discomfort which often disrupts sleep. ACT has recently started making a dry mouth lozenge as well.

If you feel like you’re experiencing dry mouth, our team atDr Sheldon Sullivan’s Gilbert office can recommend the best product for you.Call today for your appointment 480-405-1007.

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