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Diabetes and Dry Mouth: How to Address the Issue

*Disclaimer: All content and information in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only.


This article was medically reviewed by Amanda Ciprich, MS, RD. Last updated on 4/1/24.


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Beyond the impact diabetes has on blood sugar levels, one overlooked but critical issue is dry mouth. Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, occurs when there is a lack of saliva in your mouth to keep it moist. The persistent dryness of the mouth can create a number of challenges for people living with diabetes. Continue reading to learn more about diabetes and dry mouth.

What Causes Dry Mouth with Diabetes?

Anyone can get dry mouth, but it is particularly common in individuals with diabetes. The primary reason for this association is likely due to elevated glucose levels. When blood sugar levels are persistently elevated, it can lead to frequent urination, resulting in dehydration and dry mouth.


Other causes of dry mouth that are unrelated to diabetes may include:

  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Damage to salivary glands
  • Side effect of over-the-counter or prescription medications
  • Chemotherapy treatments
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Stress


What are the symptoms of dry mouth?

Dry mouth occurs when there is reduced moisture in your mouth due to lack of saliva production. The symptoms of dry mouth may include:

  • Increased thirst: Increased thirst is a common symptom of dry mouth as decreased saliva production is often a sign of dehydration.
  • Rough tongue: Dry mouth can result in the sensation of a rough or uncomfortable tongue texture on the roof of your mouth.
  • Thick or sticky saliva: Saliva texture can become thick or sticky in texture.
  • Bad Breath: Reduction in saliva to cleanse the mouth may increase the bacteria present in the mouth resulting in bad breath.
  • Pain in mouth or throat: Dry mouth can contribute to discomfort in the mouth and throat.
  • Cracked and chapped lips: Inadequate saliva can cause the lips to become dry, cracked and chapped.
  • Mouth sores: Mouth sores may develop with dry mouth.
  • Difficulty swallowing, talking or chewing: Reduced saliva production may make activities like swallowing, talking or chewing more challenging.


How to treat dry mouth with diabetes


For many people with diabetes, dehydration is a very common side effect when elevated glucose levels are detected in the blood. Excessive glucose in the bloodstream prompts the kidneys to flush excess glucose, leading to frequent urination and fluid loss. Maintaining blood sugar levels within a safe range is essential to manage dehydration and dry mouth along with consuming plenty of fluids and electrolytes.

Sugar Free Gum and Mints

Another helpful way to prevent and help treat dry mouth with diabetes is to chew sugar-free gum and suck on sugar-free mints. Sugar-free gum and mints are great for helping to increase saliva production, which can help make your mouth moist and keep it that way to prevent dry mouth.

Limit Caffeinated Beverages

Caffeinated beverages, like coffee and tea, are diuretics that can increase urine production and potentially lead to dehydration that may contribute or worsen dry mouth in people with diabetes.

Quit Smoking

Smoking can reduce saliva production resulting in dry mouth through the effects of chemical irritants, decreased blood flow to salivary glands, and the vasoconstrictive impact of nicotine. If you are experiencing dry mouth and smoke, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or dentist. They can provide guidance on managing dry mouth symptoms and offer support in quitting smoking.

Regular Dental Check-ups

Dental check-ups are crucial for managing dry mouth because they allow for ongoing monitoring, early intervention and the implementation of effective strategies to maintain optimal oral health.

Humidify the Environment

Humidifying the environment may alleviate dry mouth by increasing the moisture in the air to keep respiratory passages moist and make breathing more comfortable.

Medication Adjustment

Some medications used to manage diabetes may have side effects that include dry mouth. If you experience dry mouth as a side effect, it is important to communicate this with your healthcare provider. They may consider adjusting the dosage, switching to a different medication or exploring additional options to manage diabetes while minimizing dry mouth.

Improve Blood Sugar Management

If you are not meeting your blood sugar management goals, you may want to seek support from your diabetes care team to improve your blood sugar management. Improving blood sugar management can help with improving or preventing dry mouth and other mouth problems.


How can I Prevent Dry Mouth with Diabetes?

To prevent dry mouth, it is essential to take measures that ensure proper hydration, encourage the production of saliva, and uphold good oral hygiene practices.

Complications of dry mouth

Dry mouth can lead to various complications due to reduced saliva production. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health and its absence can result in several issues including:

  • Dental problems: Reduced saliva can lead to an increased risk of dental decay and cavities.
  • Gum disease: Insufficient saliva production can contribute to gum disease such as gingivitis, or inflamed, irritated gums due to the presence of bacteria in the mouth.
  • Oral infections: Dry mouth can create an environment conducive to the growth of microorganisms and potentially lead to oral infections such as thrush.
  • Bad breath: Absence of saliva can result in buildup of bacteria leading to bad breath.


It’s important for people with diabetes to address the underlying causes of dry mouth and seek appropriate medical or dental advice to manage or mitigate their symptoms.



About Amanda Ciprich, MS, RD

Amanda Ciprich, a registered dietitian with a specialization in type 1 diabetes, was diagnosed with T1D herself at the age of 18. With her expertise and personal experience, she has authored two books, including "The Caregiver's Guide to Diabetes: Practical Advice for Caring for Your Loved One." As the founder of T1D Nutritionist, a virtual insurance-based private practice, Amanda provides counseling and guidance to individuals with T1D and their families, supporting them in effectively managing diabetes.


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