Xerostomia is the sensation of dry mouth due to decreased salivary flow, and is common in the elderly. Saliva acts as a lubricant for the oral cavity, promotes remineralization of teeth to prevent decay, and protects against fungal and bacterial infection. Saliva is also the most important protection against caries. Xerostomia significantly increases the risk of caries and periodontal disease.


  • Medications are the typical cause.
  • Other causes include rheumatic disease and radiation therapy.
  • Sjögren's syndrome typically presents with xerostomia and xerophthalmia.


  • Dry mouth
  • Burning sensation
  • Changes in taste
  • Difficulty with swallowing and speech

A positive response to any of the following questions indicates xerostomia:

  • Does your mouth feel dry?
  • Does your mouth feel dry when eating?
  • Do you have difficulty swallowing dry foods?
  • Do you sip liquids to aid swallowing?
  • Is the amount of saliva in your mouth too little most of the time?


  • Mucosa is dry and friable in appearance.
  • No pooling of saliva in floor of mouth.

Dry Mucosa

Robert Henry, DMD, MPH
Robert Henry, DMD, MPH


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