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6 Treatments for Dry Mouth that Actually Work

Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, but it can also cause dental problems and even interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Here are six dry mouth treatments to help relieve this common health condition.

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What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth can be caused by something simple like mouth-breathing, or as a side-effect of prescription medications. On the other hand, it could be a sign of something more serious like diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome or cancer. Not only is dry mouth uncomfortable, it can cause dental problems, including cavities and mouth sores. It can also interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients from food.

The next time your mouth feels like the Sahara, consult this list of treatments for this common health condition

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1. Sip a drink

Take small sips of a low-sugar drink; water is ideal. Stay away from extreme temperatures, hot or cold, because they can irritate mouth tissue that’s sensitive because of the dryness.

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2. Chew gum or suck on candy

Chew a piece of sugarless gum or suck on a piece of sugar-free candy. Chewing gum and sucking on a piece of hard candy both trigger the salivary glands to release more saliva. Stick to sugarless because sugared gum or candy can increase your already increased risk of cavities.

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3. Suck on a lemon

We’re not being mean here; this really helps. If your mouth is still dry after drinking water and trying gum or candy, try sucking on a lemon slice. Like the gum and candy, sucking on something sour will help release more saliva.

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4. Try an over-the-counter saliva substitute

If you still can’t work up a good mouthful of saliva, use an over-the-counter saliva substitute like the gel Biotene Oral Balance, Oasis (discs that slowly dissolve in your mouth) or MEDOral Dry Mouth Treatment (a spray). Over-the-counter saliva substitutes work in various ways: some release chemicals that lubricate the mouth, some re-wet the mouth and others contain enzymes that maintain moisture. If the first one you try doesn’t work, try another.

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5. Slippery elm lozenges or tea

Slippery elm soothes and coats the mouth, which is one of the reasons it’s a popular home remedy for treating sore throats. Some brands of slippery elm lozenges also contain apple pectin, which also helps coat the mouth. To make a soothing slippery elm tea, pour 6 to 8 (200 to 225 millilitres) ounces of boiling water over 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of the herb and steep until cool.

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6. Prescription drugs

Salagen (pilocarpine hydrochloride) is the primary treatment for people with severe dry mouth. It works on the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary movements like breathing, heartbeat and saliva release. It may take weeks to begin working, so be patient, and be aware of the major side effect: Sweating. 

Check out more treatments for common health conditions!
Explore Reader’s Digest Health.