Q: What is Dry Mouth?

By Dr. Cheryl Bresnahan

Dry MouthHaving a dry mouth, or xerostomia, is not comfortable to live with and not having enough saliva can have a huge effect on your teeth.

The composition of saliva is mostly water (99.5%) and enzymes and these enzymes play a role in digestion, washing food particles away, and neutralizing acids produced by bacteria that cause tooth decay. If someone doesn’t have enough saliva, besides making it uncomfortable to chew, taste and swallow with, tooth decay is likely to result.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

The main cause of a dry mouth is the side effect of certain medications and many medications cause a dry mouth. If you feel the medication is causing your dry mouth, the first attempt is to ask your doctor if the dosage can be adjusted or if there is an alternative medication that you can take that doesn’t cause a dry mouth. If there is not, then there are some helpful suggestions below.

How Is Dry Mouth Treated?

Pilocarpine Lolipop

Pilocarpine Lollipops have generated rave reviews from patients with dry mouth.
Credit: Dr. Lee Ann Brady

Historically, the treatment for dry mouth had been sipping on water, sucking on ice chips, chewing on sugar-free gum, sucking on sugar free-candies that contain xylitol as the sweetener, using Biotene products with Biotene Oral Balance Moisturizing Gel as the best Biotene product, and various mouth sprays. There are also a prescription mouth rinse called NeutraSal that you can rinse with between 2 – 10 times a day.

A newer product called Pilocarpine Lollipop has generated rave reviews from patients with dry mouth. It is a prescription medication that a compounding pharmacy makes that puts just the right amount of pilocarpine in a lollipop that you lick from that makes our mouth feel normal again. Simply suck on the lollipop whenever you feel your mouth is dry for instant relief. Better yet, the lollipop is sweetened with xylitol which aids in preventing tooth decay.

Pilocarpine Lollipop is available by prescription only, however there isn’t a compounding pharmacy around Whitewater that makes it, but we can special order it for you.


Dr. Cheryl Bresnahan is a licensed dentist and the founder of Dental Perfections in Whitewater, WI. If you'd like to ask her a question, please visit the Ask Dr. Cheryl section of our Web site.