Dry mouth

A dry mouth is rarely a sign of anything serious. There are things you can do to help ease it yourself. See a GP if these don't work or you also have other symptoms.

Causes of a dry mouth

The main causes of a dry mouth are:

  • dehydration – for example, from not drinking enough, sweating a lot or being ill
  • medicines – check the leaflet or search for your medicine online to see if dry mouth is a side effect
  • breathing through your mouth at night – this can happen if you have a blocked nose or you sleep with your mouth open
  • anxiety
  • cancer treatment (radiotherapy or chemotherapy)

Sometimes a dry mouth that doesn't go away may be caused by a condition like diabetes or Sjögren's syndrome.

How to help ease a dry mouth yourself

Do

  • drink plenty of water – take regular sips during the day and keep some water by your bed at night
  • suck on ice cubes or ice lollies
  • chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free sweets
  • use lip balm if your lips are also dry
  • brush your teeth twice a day and use alcohol-free mouthwash – you're more likely to get tooth decay if you have a dry mouth

Don't

  • drink lots of alcohol, caffeine (such as tea and coffee) or fizzy drinks
  • have foods that are acidic (like lemons), spicy, salty or sugary
  • smoke
  • stop taking a prescribed medicine without getting medical advice first – even if you think it might be causing your symptoms

A pharmacist can help if you have a dry mouth

Ask a pharmacist about treatments you can buy to help keep your mouth moist.

You can get:

  • gels
  • sprays
  • tablets or lozenges

Not all products are suitable for everyone. Ask a pharmacist for advice about the best one for you.

If your dry mouth might be caused by a blocked nose, a pharmacist may suggest decongestants to unblock it.

See a GP if:

  • your mouth is still dry after trying home or pharmacy treatments for a few weeks
  • you have difficulty chewing, swallowing or talking
  • your mouth is painful, red or swollen
  • you have sore white patches in your mouth
  • you think a prescribed medicine might be causing your dry mouth
  • you have other symptoms, like needing to pee a lot or dry eyes

They can check what the cause might be and recommend treatment for it.

Page last reviewed: 04/04/2018
Next review due: 04/04/2021

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If you can't speak to your GP and don't know what to do next.