Managing xerostomia and salivary gland hypofunction: executive summary of a report from the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs

J Am Dent Assoc. 2014 Aug;145(8):867-73. doi: 10.14219/jada.2014.44.


Background and overview: Xerostomia, also known as "dry mouth," is a common but frequently overlooked condition that is typically associated with salivary gland hypofunction, which is the objective measurement of reduced salivary flow. Patients with dry mouth exhibit symptoms of variable severity that are commonly attributed to medication use, chronic disease and medical treatment, such as radiotherapy to the head and neck region. Chronic xerostomia significantly increases the risk of experiencing dental caries, demineralization, tooth sensitivity, candidiasis and other oral diseases that may affect quality of life negatively. This article presents a multidisciplinary approach to the clinical management of xerostomia, consistent with the findings of published systematic reviews on this key clinical issue.

Conclusions and practice implications: Initial evaluation of patients with dry mouth should include a detailed health history to facilitate early detection and identify underlying causes. Comprehensive evaluation, diagnostic testing and periodic assessment of salivary flow, followed by corrective actions, may help prevent significant oral disease. A systematic approach to xerostomia management can facilitate interdisciplinary patient care, including collaboration with physicians regarding systemic conditions and medication use. Comprehensive management of xerostomia and hyposalivation should emphasize patient education and lifestyle modifications. It also should focus on various palliative and preventive measures, including pharmacological treatment with salivary stimulants, topical fluoride interventions and the use of sugar-free chewing gum to relieve dry-mouth symptoms and improve the patient's quality of life.

Keywords: Xerostomia; saliva; salivary flow.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • American Dental Association
  • Humans
  • Salivary Glands / physiopathology*
  • United States
  • Xerostomia / chemically induced
  • Xerostomia / complications
  • Xerostomia / therapy*