The consequences of xerostomia on oral health have been studied for decades; however, the actual prevalence of this disorder on the general population remains controversial. The purpose of this systematic review was to determine the prevalence of xerostomia in population-based samples. Electronic databases were screened for relevant articles and reference lists of pertinent articles were also hand-searched. Thirteen articles meeting the final inclusion criteria were identified. Based on the definition of xerostomia used in this review, only publications including a subjective diagnosis of the disorder were included. All of the self-repotted diagnoses were achieved through a questionnaire either by mail, telephone, interview or self-administered by the patient. There was a variation across papers regarding number and content of the questions as well as guidelines for the diagnosis of xerostomia (i.e. answer yes to one or more than one question). The prevalence of xerostomia in the selected articles ranged from 0.9% to 64.8%. The majority of these studies were performed in Scandinavia. In 9 of the articles, the studied samples were 50 years and older. None of the studies evaluated the prevalence xerostomia among individuals younger than 18 years. Based on these observations, it can be concluded that there is a need for population-based studies on prevalence of xerostomia in regions other than Scandinavia. A standardized protocol to diagnose xerostomia needs to be developed. Patient-perceived treatment needs and impact on quality of life should be included to have a complete picture of public health implications of the disease.