What causes dry mouth in older adults?

Dry mouth is a common problem in older adults. Dry mouth is a potential side effect of numerous medications (prescribed and over-the-counter). Among them are antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, Parkinson’s disease medications, antidepressants and many others.

Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.
Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
As we age, our salivary glands may secrete less saliva, and certain diseases, such as diabetes, and medications (including some of those used to treat high blood pressure and urinary incontinence, as well as antidepressants and antihistamines) can exacerbate the problem. You also may suffer from excessive dryness if you've had radiation therapy of the head or neck, or chemotherapy, as both treatments can damage the salivary glands. An autoimmune disease called Sjögren's syndrome also can cause a dry mouth (along with dry eyes); so can mouth breathing due to nasal congestion.

Continue Learning about Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

If you've ever taken an antihistamine, decongestant, antidepressant or a number of other drugs, you may have experienced dry mouth (xerostomia). Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva or your saliva may feel thick and stringy. Si...

de effects of medication are the most common cause of dry mouth. Fortunately there are remedies for dry mouth; talk to your doctor if symptoms are severe. Learn more about preventing and treating dry mouth with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.