Restoring saliva flow in dry mouth
By Walter Sorochan Emeritus Professor San Diego State University

Posted January 12, 2023

This article briefly summarizes dry mouth and explores healing dry mouth.

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is the condition of not having enough saliva to keep the mouth wet and lubricated. Saliva, or spit, is made by the salivary glands and is very important for a healthy mouth. It keeps harmful germs in check, moistens and breaks down food, washes away food particles from the teeth, gums, epiglottis and helps people with swallowing.

Although most of us are born with a good saliva function, about 20% of the elderly suffer from dry mouth or xerostomia    1.  Numerous commercials online advertise their solutions to relieve dry mouth without any evidence of a cure. These aids include special chewing gum, mouth moisturizers and even a very small electrical stimulator SaliPen device that costs $ 250.00  2 .

A dry mouth can occur when we do not drink enough water and/or when the salivary glands do not secrete enough saliva, especially in older persons. Many persons, not realizing it, sleep and breath through the mouth, causing dryness of the mouth.

Location of three salivary glands

Saliva has a number of vitamins and functions. Chewing increases food salivary flow, secreting the digestive enzyme amylase that begins digestion. Adults secrete about three pints of saliva each day that contains antibacterial substances that protect teeth from cavities. Saliva also functions as an overall lubricant for the mouth, preventing food from sticking to your teeth and gums. Babies are born with the instinct to suck milk from mother's breast. As babies get older, they adapt sucking to drinking water and keeping the mouth lubricated.

The exact cause and remedy for dry mouth is still a medical mystery. To date, there is no efficient treatment available for the loss of mucous membrane and moisture-secreting gland cells, as in dry mouth and symptoms may only be temporarily relieved  3.

Several researchers are searching for a solution to dry mouth. Dr. Mathew Hoffman and his researchers at National Institute of Health are experimenting with using gene therapy and grow new salivary gland cells using stem cells to restore salivary gland function  4. Dr. Cristina Porcheri and Thimios A. Mitsiadis in Switzerland point out that all therapies currently available for the treatment of xerostomia provide only temporary relief, and require multiple applications for a long period of time  5.

One of the earliest attempts to heal sick persons was by Shamen in primitive societies using imagery and belief as a healing tool more than 20,000 years ago  6More recently medical science has used the placebo effect of imagery-belief in researching effectiveness of drugs. What is placebo and how does it work?

Placebo is an inactive substance that looks like the drug or treatment being tested. The inactive preparation containing no medicine and is given to patients who believe that they are receiving treatment.

Patients in medical research are divided into two groups, each group receives the pill not knowing whether it is the real or an inactive sugar pill. At the end of the research, the participants in both groups are compared as to the effectiveness of the real drug. At the end of a lengthy study, the group taking the inactive sugar pill had almost equal healing effects to those in the group taking the medical pills. The placebo effect occurred in the group taking the inactive pills due to them thinking that they did receive the real active pills. Placebo effect is a magical psychological phenomenon where the body can heal itself naturally, as if you had actually taken the medication  7   8.

My initial hope was to find out if someone had tried the placebo effect for dry mouth. Online research did not find any image healing for dry mouth.

So I decided to give it a try.

My dry mouth usually occurs when I am asleep. I would waken when my mouth felt dry and uncomfortable. My dry mouth irritated the epiglottis or throat, causing me to cough. As others have recommended, I would sip water at night to moisten my mouth. This was a temporary dry mouth relief.

Then one night I decided to try reviving my salivary glands to secrete saliva. So I sucked the sides of my checks, the tongue and bottom lower teeth. The first attempt did not make my mouth wet. But after several suction attempts, I felt the saliva in my mouth and gently swallowed a small amount of saliva. Then repeated the sucking movements several more times, finally wetting my mouth. By now, the dry mouth feeling was gone. I resumed sleeping; only to be awakened again by the feeling of dry mouth.

Several nights later I woke up when I sensed that my mouth was dry. I had the idea of sucking the sides of my mouth and tongue where the salivary glands are located. After sucking several times at my checks, tongue and teeth, I revived my baby gift of getting the salivary glands to secrete saliva. I repeated the sucking movement, swished the saliva with water and swallowed my saliva slowly about five times. I would repeat the sucking movement several times during the night, swallowing small gulps of saliva. This seemed to cleanse the debris in the throat as well as moisten it. This approach worked, my mouth remained moist for a longer time during sleep; although I was wakened later in the night with dry mouth feeling. My inner mouth feels like my salivary glands are secreting more saliva and my inner mouth is not drying out as often. During the day my salivary glands seemed to respond more readily in moistening my inner mouth. The body takes time to heal or correct a damaged salivary glands. Although It is too early to conclude that imagination and believing will heal my dry mouth, I feel that my salivary glands are secreting more saliva and the saliva is wetting the sides of my mouth. I think of my mouth getting wetter each time. This is the start of my belief that my sucking is slowly fixing my dry throat.

Nevertheless, suck on your salivary glands and swallow the saliva throughout the day. When you feel your mouth is dry, sip water slowly and revive the function of the salivary glands by sucking. Breath through your nose when sleeping. Using placebo is a much less expensive way to deal with dry mouth than the expensive long term online devices.


1 Achterberg Jeanne, "Imagery in Healing: Shamanism and Modern Medicine," Amazon Press, January 15, 2002.  Achterberg: Imagery in healing 2002

2 Saliwell, How to cure dry mouth, May 19, 2020.  Saliwell: cure for dry mouth 2020

3 Porcheri Cristina and Thimios A. Mitsiadis, "Physiology, Pathology and Regeneration of Salivary Glands," Cells, August 26, 2019.  Porcheri: Regeneration of Salivary glands 2019

4 Glim Melissa, "Restoring the Flow of Precious Saliva," NIH Intramural Research Program, March 18, 2022.  Glim:Restoring salivs flow 2022

5 Porcheri (2019)

6 Achterberg  (2002)

7 Rosmarin Lexi, "The Placebo Effect: Refining the Definition of Healing," Exploring Health, April 5, 2022.  Rosmarin The placebo effect 2022

8 Kubes Laurie F., "Imagery for Self-Healing and Integrative Nursing Practice," Am J Nurs. 2015 Nov;115(11):36-43.  Kubes: Imagery in healing 2015