Not sure what's causing your dry mouth? While it's probably nothing serious, here's what you should know.

By Roshini Rajapaksa, MD
Updated January 16, 2017
Credit: Aad Goudappel

Suffering from a dry mouth? First off, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water; dry mouth is a common symptom of dehydration. Is there any chance you’re breathing through your mouth or snoring a lot without realizing it? Try using a humidifier, especially in the winter and at night, to help keep the air moist. There are also hundreds of medications that can make your mouth unusually dry, including certain antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, diabetes drugs, and pain relievers.

This annoying complaint can also be a red flag that you have an underlying health condition, such as Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disease that attacks moisture-producing glands in the body), high blood sugar, or diabetes. More rarely, dry mouth may signal nerve damage in the head or neck.

It’s important to see your MD to rule out any of these more serious health issues. Regardless of the cause, dry mouth can eventually result in sores, a fungal infection in your mouth, gum disease, or tooth decay. Ask your doctor or dentist about over-the-counter toothpastes, mouthwashes, and gels designed specifically for easing dry mouth symptoms, in addition to prescription oral medications that stimulate saliva production.

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.