Dry mouth signs & symptoms

What is dry mouth? 

Dry mouth is a common condition, especially for older adults, and might be a sign that your salivary glands are not making enough saliva (spit). Persistent inadequate saliva can cause multiple problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, and mouth sores, sores, which may lead to an increase in your dental care costs.

What signs and symptoms are common with dry mouth? 

Dry mouth symptoms can range from mild, temporary, and easily relieved, to more persistent, severe, and tougher to manage. If dryness is persistent, then it can cause difficulty eating, talking, and swallowing. Smoking or chewing tobacco and frequently drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages can intensify dry mouth. 

Dry mouth can include the following signs and symptoms: 

  • Sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Frequent thirst even after drinking water
    • Burning sensation in the mouth, especially on your tongue
  • Dry throat, nose, and lips, including the throat, nasal passages, and dry and cracked lips. 
  • Sore throat, including the possibility of hoarseness when speaking.
  • Bad breath 
    • Not having enough saliva production means that more food particles will collect and decay in the mouth, which can cause bad breath. 
  • Tooth decay, gum disease
    • You may experience an increase in dental problems from losing the protective effects of saliva.
    • Mouth ulcers/sores and infections, which may include fungal infections like candidiasis.

When to see a dentist for dry mouth signs and symptoms? 

Dry mouth is usually not a serious issue that needs immediate medical care, but if you are experiencing some of the mentioned symptoms, then be sure to talk to your dentist or health care provider. Early diagnosis and starting preventive measures can help avoid or limit many of the potential problems caused by dry mouth. Some self-help guidance and professional care may help you feel more comfortable and could improve your quality of life. 


1. Xerostomia (Dry Mouth) American Dental Association (2021, February 22) from https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/xerostomia

2. Managing dry mouth, American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs, Journal of the American Dental Assoc. (2015, February) from https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(14)00056-7/fulltext

3. Dry Mouth. Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. (2022, September) from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/dry-mouth 

4. Mouth Dryness. American Cancer Society. (2020, February 1) from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/mouth-problems/dry-mouth.html  

5. Dry Mouth.  National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (2022, September) from https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/dry-mouth

Additional resources