Dry Mouth: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Location of the salivary glands in the jaw

When you have dry mouth, or xerostomia (say "zee-ruh-STO-mee-uh"), your mouth does not make enough saliva. Saliva helps you chew, swallow, and digest your food. It also neutralizes the acids that form in your mouth. If you have ongoing dry mouth, it can lead to mouth infections, gum disease, and tooth decay. It can also make it hard to swallow or talk.

Your doctor or dentist may diagnose dry mouth. It is often a side effect of medicines like diuretics, decongestants, and antidepressants. Cancer treatments or damage to the salivary glands can also cause dry mouth.

To help fight the effects of dry mouth, your dentist may apply extra fluoride to your teeth. This can help prevent tooth decay. He or she may also give you mouthwash to fight bacteria. You may need to have dental checkups more often. Treatment may include medicine to help you make more saliva. Or, if other medicines you take are making your mouth dry, your doctor may change the type or dosage of the medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take frequent sips of liquid throughout the day. Water is best.
  • Use ice chips or sugar-free candy or gum to help keep your mouth moist. Candy or gum with xylitol can help prevent tooth decay.
  • Avoid spicy or salty foods. They may cause pain in a dry mouth.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day, morning and night. Floss once a day.
  • Schedule checkups and cleanings as often as your dentist recommends it.
  • Use an over-the-counter saliva substitute.
  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. They can also make your mouth dry.
  • You may be given medicine for dry mouth. Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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