What causes a dry mouth?

People get a dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. Because of this, there might not be enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. There are 4 main reasons that prevent these glands (called salivary glands) from working normally and causing dry mouth problems:

  1. Side effects of some medicines - More than 500 commonly used prescription and non-prescription medicines1 can cause the salivary glands to produce less saliva. Several medicines can cause a dry mouth, including antihistamines, anti-depressants, some beta-blockers, anti-hypertensives, diuretics and some over-the-counter cold remedies.
  2. Multiple Medicines - Further, a feeling a dry mouth can be common when taking many medications. Whilst taking medications is doing good, having a dry mouth maybe harmful to the mouth environment.
  3. Disease and conditions - A dry mouth can be a symptom of medical conditions, including Sjögren's Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
  4. Procedures - Radiation therapy (the salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment), chemotherapy (drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry).
  5. Increasing age - The older you get, the more likely you are to have a dry mouth. This is due to a couple of reasons – the first being that a slightly decreased saliva flow is a natural result of ageing. Also, the older you get, the more likely you are to take medicines on a regular basis. Older people are also more likely to suffer from cancer and Sjögren's syndrome.

1 eMIMS; August 2010