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Drug-Induced Dry Mouth Helped by Xylitol (XyliMelts)

A common drug side effect is dry mouth. It can be a warning sign of other serious drug side effects. A natural sugar, xylitol, may help ease symptoms.

Q. I read the letter from the lady who had dry mouth brought on by her medicine. I have had the same problem.

The best item to help relieve dry mouth is XyliMelts adhering discs (OraCoat). My dentist told me about them and they are so helpful!

A. Dry mouth due to medications can be hard to manage. It is sometimes accompanied by constipation because anticholinergic drugs such as amitriptyline or tolterodine can cause both symptoms.

By the way, anticholinergic drugs can cause a lot more mischief than dry mouth and constipation. Often overlooked complications of anticholinergic medications include cognitive dysfunction, memory impairment, impulsive behavior, confused thinking and a risk for falls.

Whenever we hear that someone is complaining of a dry mouth we ask to see a list of her medications to determine whether she is taking an anticholinergic drug. We cannot reproduce the long list of anticholinergic drugs here, but in addition to the medications mentioned above, alprazolam (Xanax), cimetidine (Tagamet), diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Simply Sleep, etc) and oxybutynin (Ditropan) all have anticholinergic activity. For a longer list and other drugs that are inappropriate for people over 65, see our chapter titled “The Screwing of Senior Citizens” in the book Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

What to Do for Dry Mouth

Sometimes  a dry mouth is caused by something other than a medication (aging, cancer treatment, a neurological disorder, etc). Regardless of the cause, xylitol, the birch sugar that is the active ingredient in XyliMelts, can help alleviate both dry mouth and constipation problems. Be careful not to overuse xylitol-containing products, since that could lead to diarrhea.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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