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 do not 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 that comes with your medicine 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)
  • oral thrush (mouth thrush)

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

How to help ease a dry mouth yourself


  • drink plenty of cold water – take regular sips during the day and keep some water by your bed at night

  • suck on ice cubes or ice lollies

  • sip on cold unsweetened drinks

  • 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

How to help ease a dry mouth yourself


  • do not drink lots of alcohol, caffeine (such as tea and coffee) or fizzy drinks

  • do not eat foods that are acidic (like lemons), spicy, salty or sugary

  • do not smoke

  • do not sleep with dentures in

  • do not use acidic artificial saliva products if you have your own teeth

  • do not 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

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:

You have a dry mouth and:

  • your mouth is still dry after trying home or pharmacy treatments for a few weeks
  • you have difficulty chewing, swallowing or talking
  • you're struggling to eat regularly
  • you're having problems with your sense of taste that are not going away
  • your mouth is painful, red, swollen or bleeding
  • 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

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