10 Medications That Cause Dry Mouth

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Amy McGorry on March 20, 2021
  • Talk with Your Doctor, doctors
    Over 400 medications can create dry mouth.
    There are over 400 medications that can create the dry, parched feeling in your mouth referred to as "dry mouth." Most of these medications have an antiadrenergic / anticholinergic effect, meaning they block certain functions of your body's systems that help promote watery secretions from glands, like saliva. Studies say dry mouth can create problems with swallowing, chewing and dental decay. Familiarize yourself with a few commonly used types of medications that can lead to oral dryness.
  • blood-pressure
    Antihypertensive Drugs
    Studies suggest medications used to treat hypertension like alpha blockers and beta blockers have side effects including dry mouth. Researchers also found calcium channel blockers can inhibit saliva secretion. Experts say ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors used for treating high blood pressure as well as diabetes and kidney problems can also lead to oral dryness.
  • Bathroom sign
    Urinary Incontinence Drugs
    Some drugs prescribed to treat urinary incontinence caused by nerve over activity can cause dry mouth. Studies show antimuscarinic drugs help counter the muscular spasms that contribute to urinary frequency. However, this antimuscarinic property also affects your body's ability to secrete saliva – leaving you with that dry mouth sensation.
  • Woman taking a pill
    Antipsychotic Drugs
    Antipsychotic drugs are often prescribed to treat schizophrenia and symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, delusional disorder and psychotic depression. Some are also used in the treatment of Huntington's disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A common side effect of these types of medications is dry mouth. Dry mouth is also associated with atypical antipsychotics, which can also used be used for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism and in major depressive disorder.
  • depressed man middle age
    There are many different classes of antidepressants, yet most share a common side effect: dry mouth. Studies suggest the tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MOAIs), which are sometimes used in treating Parkinson's disease, reportedly cause dry mouth. Reports say serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) can create oral dryness. Experts say certain SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) with lower anticholinergic activity may have a lower occurrence of dry mouth.
  • Pills
    Antibiotics can eliminate bacterial infections in your body. However, they can trigger dry mouth, as some have anticholinergic properties. Certain antibiotics are known to cause dryness in the mouth. Antibiotics used to treat pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus, ear and skin infections can also contribute to oral dryness. This class of drugs is used to treat bacterial infections in different parts of the body and can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth and antibiotics can leave you at risk for developing a type of fungal infection in your mouth called thrush.
  • Antihistamines
    Antihistamines help alleviate runny noses and red, watery eyes, but some reportedly have antimuscarinic effects. These drugs inhibit the action of a neurotransmitter in the parasympathetic nervous system. This blocking mechanism can lead to decrease secretion of saliva, leaving you with a dry mouth sensation. There are different types and forms of antihistamines like nasal sprays and pills. They are also available in prescription and over-the-counter form.
  • roll-of-toilet-paper
    Antidiarrheal / Gastric Medications
    Many antidiarrheal medications rely on their anticholinergic properties to decrease intestinal smooth muscle contractions and relax spasms associated with diarrhea. However, these properties can also cause dry mouth. Some antiulcer medications for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) act by inhibiting the body's pathway that secretes stomach acids. These have been linked to dry mouth. Proton pump inhibitors, also used to address GERD, are known to contribute to dry mouth.
  • Lung X-ray
    Pulmonary diseases are often treated with bronchodilators. Bronchodilators may cause dry mouth. This happens because most bronchodilators contain either beta 2 agonists or anticholinergics, and experts say both of these medications temporarily prevent the production of mucus and saliva. Some bronchodilators used to treat bronchospasms associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, have an antimuscarinic effect, which studies say can inhibit salivary secretions in the mouth.
  • Pain Medication
    Pain Medications
    Many patients typically say they feel "cotton mouth" when taking pain medications. One side effect of commonly prescribed pain medications is dry mouth. Certain narcotic analgesics used to relieve pain and cause numbness can also create a dry mouth sensation. Opiates in particular are well known for their antisecretory effects. In addition to affecting motility, opiates stimulate absorption of fluid and electrolytes in your body, leaving less fluid available in the mouth.
  • swallowing, pills, pills in hand with glass of water, medication,
    Diuretics or "water pills" are commonly linked to xerostomia (severe dry mouth). Diuretics help reduce the amount of water and salt in your body by passing it through your urine. Reducing fluid helps lower blood pressure and makes it easier on your heart to pump. Reports suggest this reduction in fluid corresponds with a reduction in the activity of the salivary glands, leaving less saliva in the mouth. 
10 Medications That Cause Dry Mouth
  1. Epstein, Benjamin J, GUMS, John G. and Molina, Emerson. Newer Agents for the Management of Overactive Bladder. Am Fam Physician. 2006 Dec 15;74(12):2061-8.
  2. Hattori T, Wang PL. Calcium Antagonists Cause Dry Mouth by Inhibiting Resting Saliva Secretion. Life Sci. 2007;81(8):683-90. 
  3. Scully, C. Drug effects on salivary glands: dry mouth. Oral Diseases. 2003 July;9(4):165-76. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1034/j.1601-0825.2003.03967.x/full
  4. Lewis KS and Han NH. Tramadol: A New Centrally Acting Analgesic. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1997;54(6):643-52. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9075493
  5. Volz HP, Gleiter CH. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. A Perspective on Their Use in the Elderly. Drugs Aging. 1998;13(5):341-55. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9829163
  6. Drugs, Supplements, and Herbal Information. MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginformation.html
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 20
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