Which Drugs Cause Xerostomia to Occur?
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You might be familiar with some of the various different causes of dry mouth – also referred to as xerostomia, but do you know that currently, there are over 1,800 prescribed medications that have dry mouth listed as one of their most common symptoms? Yes, this is true. That is what brought us here in the first place – in today’s article, we decided to share some of the most common causes of dry mouth – xerostomia, so that next time, when you experience dry mouth symptoms you will be able to recognize if it is your medication that has been causing this symptom or there is another reason to discuss. Today’s article will teach you about the basics of xerostomia so that you would learn not to look to the other side when you are dealing with it and instead of, try and get some help about it. Let’s start, shall we?

What is xerostomia?

Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, occurs due to inadequate function of the salvatory glands – the parotid glands. It is a condition that occurs due to the inadequate amount of saliva in the mouth. As you probably know, the saliva is produced by the salvatory glands and has been beneficial purposes – from lubricating the oral cavity, removing the food particles that are stuck in between the teeth, removing plaque, digesting the food to helping the food to get from the mouth to the gut. In most cases, xerostomia develops as a sole symptom of various medical conditions, which is why it is considered to be only a symptom and not a disease. Looking back, there have been findings of the different causes of symptoms such as xerostomia is. Common causes of dry mouth are Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, removal of the salvatory glands, hormonal imbalances, smoking, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnea, hypothyroidism and systematic lupus erythematosus. Drug-induced xerostomia is also quite common, being caused [i]by the use of certain medications as well. In such cases, the symptoms of xerostomia will last as long as the use of the certain medication continues. The most common symptom of xerostomia is believed to be dehydration caused by various reasons with the inadequate intake of water being the most common one. Symptoms of dry mouth include bad breath, taste disorders, painful tongue, inflammation of the lips, frequent gum disease etc. Xerostomia is considered to affect at least 10% of the people all around the world, is caused by numerous different reasons and affecting more women as compared to men. Diagnosing xerostomia is usually an easy thing to do. Taking your medical history as well as the information about all the medications – both prescribed and over-the-counter ones, that you are taking are required by the doctor. A physical exam is also performed and sometimes blood tests might be performed as well. The common treatment [ii]for xerostomia involves regular intake of enough water and in some cases, use of artificial saliva. There are different products that are meant to lubricate and moisturize your mouth until your dry mouth is fully treated and your doctor will probably recommend you a product of such kind that you will benefit from. If left untreated, xerostomia is known to cause increased levels of tooth decay, mouth sores, gingivitis, cavities, yeast infection in the mouth, and cracked lips. Because there is a risk of tooth decay, it is important to protect your teeth as a part of the treatment of dry mouth as well. Daily use of fluoride treatments has been also proven beneficial. That is the reason why it is of a vital importance for you to notice the symptoms of xerostomia and report them to your doctor so that together, can discover the cause of its occurrence and develop a treatment plan as soon as possible.

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These are the most common drugs that cause xerostomia to occur

Antidepressants – being used to treat major depressive disorders, eating disorders, OCD, chronic pain and so many other medical conditions, antidepressants are known [iii]to cause xerostomia quite often. Of all antidepressants, it is the tricyclic antidepressants and lithium that cause dry mouth most commonly as compared with other medications from the same group.

Atropine and scopolamine – most commonly being used to treat spasms of the gastrointestinal tract and the bladder, atropine and scopolamine have been proven beneficial and able to control conditions such as colitis, diverticulitis, motion sickness, renal colic, and even colic in infants. Because atropine and scopolamine have been known to reduce the secretions of many organs, including the salvatory glands, dry mouth is listed as a common side-effect on their instructions.

Antihistamines – allergies, atopic dermatitis, and hives are only three of the many conditions treated with the use of antihistamines. Unfortunately, xerostomia is an often occurring [iv]side-effect from the use of antihistamines. Alegra, Dimetane, Tavis, Palgic, and Atarax are only some of the most commonly used antihistamines but also the antihistamines which are most commonly linked to the occurrence of dry mouth.

Opioids – used to treat moderate to severe pain, the opioids are used quite common nowadays. Codeine, Vicodin, Lorcet, Demerol, morphine, and OxyContin are some of the most common opioids linked[v] to drug-induced xerostomia.

Antihypertensives – hypertension, or high blood pressure, is controlled thanks to the use of antihypertensives. Unfortunately, dry mouth is the one side-effect that these patients often report to their doctors.

Antipsychotics – often prescribed to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, among other conditions, antipsychotics have been found to be one of the most common drug-induced xerostomia.

Antibiotics – being one of the most commonly used group of drugs, thanks to the antibiotics we are able to fight the bacterial infections and all of the symptoms and complications that come with. Unfortunately, it is quite possible that you will experience dry mouth as one of the many side-effects of the use of antibiotics.

Cannabinoids – patients who are suffering from Multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, AIDS and advanced cancer, among other health conditions, all use various cannabinoids in order to relieve symptoms such as pain, nausea, and vomiting and to improve their general wellbeing. Little do they know that this exact drug group is what has been causing their dry mouth symptoms.


Dry mouth is not a pleasant experience to deal with, and yet, it appears to be quite the common one. One of the major causes of xerostomia has been found to be the use of certain medications. In today’s article, we have discussed some of the biggest groups of drugs that unfortunately have been most commonly liked to dry mouth as one of their side-effects. Perhaps one of these drugs is the cause of your dry mouth as well. If it is, then you should consult your doctor and perhaps switch to another medication if possible.


[i] Guggenheimer J, Moore PA, (2003), Xerostomia: etiology, recognition and treatment, Journal of the American Dental Association 134(1):61-9

[ii] Närhi TO, Meurman JH, Ainamo A, (1999), Xerostomia and hyposalvatation: causes, consenquences and treatment in the elderly, Drugs & Aging 15(2):103-16

[iii] Daly C, (2016), Oral and dental effects of antidepressants, Australian prescriber 39(3): 84

[iv] Rius MJ, Llobet LB, Lahor-Soler E, Farre M, (2015), Salivary secretory disorders, inducing drugs and clinical management, International Journal od Medical Sciences 12(10): 811–824

[v] Götrick B, Akerman S, Ericson D, Torstenson R, Tobin G, (2004), Oral pilocarpine for treatment of opioid-induced oral dryness in healthy adults, Journal of Dental Research 83(5):393-7


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