How to Get Rid of Cottonmouth (Dry Mouth)- The Definitive Guide

How to Get Rid of dry mouthIf you’ve ever experienced cottonmouth (also known as dry mouth or xerostomia) before, then you know what an incredibly unpleasant thing it is to deal with. That terrible sticky feeling in your mouth, the constant thirst, the difficulty swallowing — it’s just awful!

Xerostomia used to be considered part of the natural aging process, but in modern times, there are now several different factors that can contribute to you developing what is un-affectionately referred to as ‘cottonmouth’.

If you’re wondering how to get rid of dry mouth, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ll be going over what exactly cottonmouth is along with the most common causes for it, before giving you nine sure fire tips to help you get rid of this unpleasant condition.

What Is Cottonmouth?

In technical terms, xerostomia refers to the inability of your salivary glands to produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. [1] It can be caused by a variety of factors including natural aging, smoking, or as a side effect from certain medications.

It’s pretty interesting to me how little we pay attention to something as benign as our saliva in our day-to-day lives. It’s just one of those things that has always been there — and yet it actually handles some incredibly important and complex tasks. [2]

Your saliva contains enzymes that make it easier to digest food, it enhances your ability to taste your food, and it also helps to prevent tooth decay by taking care of the acids in your mouth that result from bacterial growth.

When you are experiencing cottonmouth and a lack of saliva production, your mouth can’t perform these critical tasks properly. This extends far beyond just being an uncomfortable thing to deal with as it can have a severely negative impact on your overall oral health.

Cottonmouth Symptoms

When your salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva, you may experience a number of different symptoms that are commonly associated with cottonmouth. These can include: [3]

  • A dry, sticky feeling inside your mouth
  • Difficulty with chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking
  • A burning, tingling feeling in the mouth and on the tongue
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • A dry, raw tongue
  • Sores in the mouth or at the corners of your lips
  • Frequent thirst
  • Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, or a sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Infections in the mouth

As unpleasant as these symptoms can be, the good news is that they can all be effectively managed with a few simple home remedies. Before we take a look at those however, I’d like to take a moment to go over what exactly causes cottonmouth.

What Causes Cottonmouth?

Just as the signs and symptoms of cottonmouth can be incredibly varied, so too can the most common causes of the condition. [4]

  • Aging – Decades ago, this was thought to be the most common cause of cottonmouth. The elderly are still extremely susceptible to developing the condition due to the fact they generally tend to take more medications than the general population.
  • Side Effect of Certain Medications – Building on the point above, many prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can cause cottonmouth as a common side effect. In fact, there are over 400 known medications that can cause xerostomia as a side effect, including commonly prescribed treatments for allergies, blood pressure, and depression.
  • Cancer Treatment – Undergoing both radiation therapy and chemotherapy can end up causing cottonmouth. Radiotherapy can end up damaging your salivary glands, resulting in less saliva being produced while chemotherapy is actually capable of changing the nature of your saliva and the amount that your body produces.
  • Smoking – This is without a doubt one of the most common causes of dry mouth and it applies in equal measure to smoking tobacco or smoking cannabis. Both smoking and chewing tobacco can result in cottonmouth and nearly every form of cannabis can cause the condition as well.
  • Dehydration – Another extremely common cause of cottonmouth is due to dehydration. This can be caused by something as simple as not drinking enough fluids throughout the day to exercising or spending extensive amounts of time outdoors in the heat.
  • Health Conditions – Cottonmouth can also be caused by a number of health conditions, including psychological ones such as anxiety and depression (especially in conjunction with antidepressant medications). Other health conditions that can cause cottonmouth include HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson’s.

How to Get Rid of Cottonmouth – 9 Effective Strategies

Very rarely are cases of xerostomia permanent. While it is indeed possible, the vast majority of cases can be resolved quickly and easily by applying the following nine proven strategies.

Drink More Water

When patients first go see their doctor with complaints of dry mouth, one of the first things that the doctor will assess is their level of hydration. [5] As chronic dehydration is becoming increasingly common all throughout North America, there are more and more instances of cottonmouth being reported.

Chronic dehydration can cause a number of unpleasant side effects, and cottonmouth is definitely one of them. To counteract this, it’s essential that you drink enough water on a daily basis. It is one of the easiest methods available to improve your overall health. [6] You should be aiming for eight glasses of water per day at a minimum.

Be Mindful of Your Breathing

Are you consciously aware of your breathing? You should be! Believe it or not, but how you breathe can not only cause conditions like cottonmouth, but it can have a dramatic impact on your general health as well. Deep breathing is a very common coping strategy that aims to relieve stress and anxiety. [7]

When it comes to cottonmouth however, the way in which you regularly breathe can be a contributing factor. If you often breathe through your mouth, you are more likely to develop not only cottonmouth, but other conditions such as halitosis as well. [8] Instead, you should focus on breathing through your nose throughout the day — you’d be surprised how quickly this can help clear up some cases of cottonmouth!

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

I’ve personally been guilty of this one on more than occasion, and that’s waking up after enjoying a few drinks with friends to an unbelievably dry feeling in my mouth. Even moderate alcohol consumption can end up causing you to wake up with cottonmouth [9], and according to statistics from the CDC, over a quarter of the American populating drinks beyond what I would call ‘moderation’.

This point also goes hand-in-hand with staying hydrated to relieve cottonmouth. Alcohol is well known to be a cause of dehydration, which can end up exacerbating your cottonmouth symptoms.

So if you’ve been dealing with chronic cottonmouth, consider avoiding the bottle for a little while.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake

limit caffeine to Get Rid of Cottonmouth

The second substance that you should take it easy on if you’re dealing with cottonmouth is caffeine.

Whether you get your caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, or even straight up caffeine pills, they can all end causing dehydration and dry mouth. Now, with moderation caffeine consumption, this usually isn’t a problem [10], but if you’re someone who needs to pound back a few cups of java first thing in the morning just to get you going, then you might want to consider cutting back or taking a break for a little while.

Try Sugar-Free Gum or Sour Candies

One quick and effective remedy when it comes to relieving cottonmouth is to force your salivary glands into producing saliva. This can be accomplished rather easily — simply chewing some sugar-free gum or sucking on a sour hard candy can stimulate saliva production. [11]

I generally always have a pack of gum on hand so this is one of the main ways that I deal with my mouth getting dry, and I can honestly say it works incredibly well. Sour candy works even better for getting the saliva flowing, but it’s far more uncommon for me to have that on hand so I usually stick with the gum.

Stop Smoking

By quitting smoking, you’ll experience far greater health benefits than just a reduction in cottonmouth symptoms. It’s never too late to quit, as studies have found this cessation from smoking at any point can lead you to live a longer life. [12]

This applies to both tobacco products as well as cannabis. Since cannabis is such a common trigger for cottonmouth, many people find that by simply stopping its usage they are able to immediately solve their problem.

Tobacco is just as bad when it comes to causing cottonmouth however. Studies have found that long-term smoking can have a severe negative impact on your oral health, including reducing the flow of saliva available. [13]

Use a Humidifier

How to Get Rid of Cottonmouth (Dry Mouth)- The Definitive Guide

Changing the way you breathe by focusing on breathing through your nose instead of your mouth is one effective cottonmouth remedy. Another strategy focuses on changing the quality of the air that you breath instead.

The air that you breath as you sleep could potentially be lacking in moisture, contributing to your cottonmouth symptoms. Dry air can cause all kinds of nasty symptoms including cottonmouth, nasal and sinus congestion, and even nose bleeds. [14]

By getting a high quality humidifier, you can add some moisture into the air at night and greatly improve the quality of the air that you’re breathing. All too often this has quite a noticeably positive effect on cottonmouth symptoms.

Check Your Mouthwash Ingredients

Sometimes all it takes to find relief from cottonmouth is swapping out one common household item for a more viable alternative. This is definitely the case with some varieties of mouthwash. As a matter of fact, even some ingredients found in your toothpaste could potentially cause cottonmouth, although your mouthwash is usually the more likely culprit. [15]

Many mouthwash brands contain alcohol as an ingredient, and we’ve already discussed the role that alcohol can play when it comes to causing dry mouth.

If your cottonmouth symptoms only started after trying out a new mouthwash or toothpaste, you might want to have a close look at the ingredient labels. Often times, if you switch to an alcohol-free version, you can significantly lower your odds of developing dry mouth symptoms.

Dietary Considerations

Just as you should avoid or limit your alcohol and caffeine intake if you suffer from cottonmouth, there are also some foods that can make your symptoms worse.

Eating too many salty foods can contribute to dehydration in your body, which can in turn cause cottonmouth symptoms. [16] Spicy foods are also known to be a cause of dry mouth in some people.

Otherwise, there’s also some foods that can actually help you resolve your cottonmouth symptoms. Much like using a hard sour candy, by sucking on a slice of lemon or lime you can stimulate saliva production. Perhaps more surprisingly, researchers have also found that yogurt can be an even more effective saliva stimulant than lemons. That’s good news too, because I would much rather eat a cup of yogurt than sit down and suck on a lemon slice! [17]


And that just about wraps it up! No matter what’s causing your uncomfortable cottonmouth symptoms, if you apply the strategies above, you should be able to find immediate relief.

However, if you find that your symptoms aren’t improving after trying out these tips, I would definitely recommend consulting with your doctor as there are other options available to you as well. Some of these options can include nasal sprays and over-the-counter saliva substitutes. Before going down this road however, be sure that you exhaust all of the natural remedies possible first!

Do you know of any other effective cottonmouth remedies?

Do you regularly deal with dry mouth symptoms and want to share your experiences? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Also, if you feel like your family and friends might find this article useful, then please feel free to share it with them as well.

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About the author

Patricia Montoya

Patricia Montoya

I’m Patricia, a mom to two rambunctious boys who both love candy and just can’t seem to get enough of it. I write about health topics packed with information about dental care designed to help EVERYONE from all walks of life.

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