Possible Problems



dry mouth - Xerostomia & dehydration


A basic problem to watch for - Dehydration

Before we go on with information about dry mouth, we make Dry Mouth worse and complicate our other problems if we become dehydrated. We often have dry mouth (Xerostomia) because of our surgery or radition which damages the saliva glands. 

Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much fluid. This can happen when you stop drinking water or lose large amounts of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or exercise. Not drinking enough fluids can cause muscle cramps. You may feel faint. Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your blood and other body tissues. But by the time you become severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid in your body to get blood to your organs, and you may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition.

Dehydration can occur in anyone of any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults.

A small part of the following explanation from WebMD,  covers many of us who are older, have had surgery, radiation or chemo and because of medications.

Dehydration in older adults

Older adults have an increased chance of becoming dehydrated because they may:

1. Not drink because they do not feel as thirsty as younger people.
2. Have kidneys that do not work well.
3. Choose not to drink because of the inability to control their bladders (incontinence).

4. Have physical problems or a disease which makes it:
Hard to drink or hold a glass.
Painful to get up from a chair.
Painful or exhausting to go to the bathroom.
Hard to talk or communicate to someone about their symptoms.
Take medicines that increase urine output.
5. Not have enough money to adequately feed themselves.

Most of the above information came from:


A little personal advice, if you think you are slightly dehydrated or becoming so, before you get in real trouble, start drinking water.  The old rule is 8 glasses of water or other fluids each 24 hour period. More if you exercise. Some advise drinking some juice or sports drink in with the water. Some will argue about what fluids are better.  Read about that later, just get some water down now (add a dash of juice or flavor to it if it helps you drink it.)

Eat juicy foods,like fruit and salads, make soup often so you get extra liquid... stay away from salty or very dry foods. For those of us troubled with dry mouth, and often some swallowing problems, we already know that dry foods do not work well with us.

Keep a bottle or jug of water with you and reach for it often. I have taken a couple of thermo cups, filled them with ice & water, put the caps on and left one on my desk so anytime I am checking the computer, there is water right there.  The other one goes to bed with me at night and is in my kitchen other times next to where I take my meds.

Pat Sanders/2013

Lary 1995


Dry Mouth - Xerostomia


This after effect of radiation therapy or medications can be temporary or permanent. In response to requests for information and recommendations about xerostomia, remedies include the following:

1. Sip water frequently. Use a humidifier regularly to moisten air. These will both help to decrease thickness of salivary secretions.

2. Stimulate flow from salivary glands by using sugarless gum or chewing fibrous foods, such as celery or carrots, between meals (if tolerated).

3. Alternate solids and liquids during meals. Use sauces or gravies to add moisture to dry foods. Take small bites and chew well.

4. Saliva substitutes are available in sprays, liquids and, I believe, in gums, and gels. Ask your pharmacist to recommend products (i.e. Salivart, MouthKote). Be aware that saliva substitutes are a temporary solution and many patients consider them ineffective.

5. If xerostomia is severe, consider the use of medications, such as Pilocarpine and Bethanechol (Urecholine), which stimulate salivary production. Talk to your physician to determine if these are appropriate in your individual circumstances.

6. Prevent dental decay that may be associated with xerostomia by visiting the dentist more frequently and not eating sugar between meals.

Good luck. From my own personal experience, many of the patients that I have worked with have just learned to live with it. (Laurie R. Sabol, SLP)





Papaya enzyme helps thin saliva and is available in most pharmacy departments.

Ron M.




For thick saliva - I was given this bit of advice by my dentist - keep some pineapple squares in their own juice in the fridge and eat one now and again - it works. (Liz UK)

Moisture, Moisture, Moisture! Use your humidifier, drink lots of water. Sometimes tart drinks or hard candies stimulate production of saliva, but your body needs the water to thin it. Try both hot and cold drinks to see which works better for you. Cold bubbly club soda may cut it loose. (Suggestions from the WW Email list).




Dry skin has a number of causes and often goes with dry mouth.

We have a section with suggestions of lotions to use.

Please look for hand treatments to use under:







This site lists various treatments and suggestions for easing dry mouth.

There is also a table listing the names of several commercially available Salivary Stimulants, Oral Moisturizers and Salivary Substitutes.



HINTS - for helping dry mouth from our members

1. Be aware that in my case, the mask and lead shield did not protect my salivary glands and esophagus which led to my lacking the saliva necessary to swallow as well as shrinking my esophagus by 30%. Some tricks I learned to compensate were:
a. Don't use Listerine as it has alcohol that dries up saliva; use Biotene, which is alcohol free.
b. Stimulate your salivary glands in the morning by eating sugarless gum.

c. Get nourishment by drinking Boost and low acid, no pulp orange juice. I received proper nourishment.
d. By exercising my esophagus and salivary glands, I'm now able to eat frosted carrot cake, cheese food, goldfish and ice cream which has allowed me to gain 30 pounds.
John Fehr, Hamburg,NY


2. I discovered Biotene products, made by Laclede, at the IAL Convention held in Toronto. They have a chewing gum, which I like a lot! Although, it breaks down in my mouth after chewing it awhile, it does last longer than the other chewing gums that are on the market. I still have most of my teeth and since I had extensive radiation, it is very important that I keep my mouth moist. I didn't have much success with the "sprays" that are on the market but I find that sugerless gum, help generate saliva. I carry a small water bottle at all times, otherwise I lose the quality of my "TEP" voice, since late in the day my saliva becomes very thick, and I am unable to swallow it easily.


You can go to Biotene.com for more information.

Another source of information is oracoat.com


Note: Eating sugars or things in acid (natural or added) can cause erosion of the enamel and increased tooth decay with dry mouth.




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