Dry mouth

Getting radiation therapy to the head and neck area often damages glands that make saliva. Certain chemotherapies and medications can also lead to a dry mouth, also known as xerostomia. Having a dry mouth can make it difficult to chew and swallow food, and even talk! Patients often tell me that they feel they have cotton in their mouth!


  • Sip non-caloric caffeine free liquids throughout the day. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go and sip frequently.
  • Have tart foods and drinks. Foods such as lemon and lime can actually help you make more saliva. Sprinkle some lemon or lime zest or juice on foods such as vegetables and potatoes.
  • Chew sugar-free gum or such on sugar-free hard candy. Saliva is a natural lubricant and helps cleanse the teeth. Having foods with sugar such as hard candy containing can promote cavity formation.
  • Have foods that contain moisture. Use sauces, gravies, broth and dressings to add moisture to foods.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol actually makes your mouth even drier. Be sure to stay away from mouthwashes that contain alcohol too.
  • Talk with your healthcare team and dentist about products to keep your mouth moist.