Last revised by Yuranga Weerakkody on 11 Apr 2023

Xerostomia is the medical term for a dry mouth, and is most commonly due to hyposalivation.

Xerostomia is the most frequently observed salivary abnormality in clinical practice 1.

  • dryness of the mouth

  • uncomfortable swallowing

  • vocalisation difficulties: tongue may adhere to the palate impairing speech

  • taste disturbances: ageusia and dysgeusia

  • fetor oris

A chronic lack of saliva can result in several sequelae, with potentially serious morbidity:

Most people experience a dry mouth from time to time, whether related to 'nerves' or because they are mildly dehydrated. 

  • anxiety

  • "mouth-breathers"

  • old age: reduced saliva production

  • medication

    • anticholinergic activity

      • anticholinergics: atropine, hyoscine

      • proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), e.g. omeprazole

      • antidepressants, e.g. tricyclics, SSRIs

      • benzodiazepines, e.g. diazepam

      • opioids

      • antihistamines

    • agents affecting sympathetic system

      • sympathomimetic ​agents: e.g. ephedrine

      • antihypertensives 

    • agents promoting fluid depletion

      • diuretics

  • radiotherapy: including radioiodine for thyroid disease

  • graft-versus-host disease

  • treat underlying cause e.g. Sjögren syndrome

  • artificial saliva

  • optimal oral hygiene

  • sialogogues

Xerostomia is derived from the Classical Greek, ζηρος (xeros) meaning dry, and στομα (stoma) meaning mouth 2,3.

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