Dry Mouth

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Dry mouth means you don't have enough saliva, or spit, to keep your mouth wet. Dry mouth can cause problems with chewing, swallowing, and speaking and can alter your sense of taste. Dry mouth also can increase your risk of developing infections in your mouth. The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (pronounced ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah).

Chemotherapy can cause dry mouth. So can a number of pain medications, antidepressants, and antihistamines.

Managing dry mouth

If you have dry mouth during chemotherapy, talk to you doctor. Artificial salivas are available that can help.

Other tips to ease dry mouth:

  • Sucking on hard candy or chewing sugarless gum can help your salivary glands produce more saliva.
  • Sip water or other sugarless drinks often. Keep a container of water nearby at all times. Drinking a lot of water while you're eating will make chewing and swallowing easier. It may also make the food taste better.
  • Use a straw when you drink.
  • Take small bites and chew your food well.
  • Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks and commercial mouthwashes.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid spicy and salty foods. They can irritate a dry mouth.
  • Eat soft, moist foods that are cool or at room temperature. Put fruits and vegetables in a blender to soften and smooth them. Try soft-cooked chicken and fish, cereal soaked in milk, and sugarless popsicles. Avoid foods that stick to the roof of your mouth, such as peanut butter.
  • Moisten food with broth, soup, sauces, gravy, or yogurt.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier at night.
  • Keep your mouth clean. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and rinse your mouth before and after eating with plain water or a mild mouth rinse (1 quart water, mixed with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda). Regularly floss your teeth.

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