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High and Dry: Cannabis Cottonmouth


Theres one bad thing about partaking in weed that we can all agree on: the unwelcomed sensation of feeling like you’ve swallowed a bunch of cotton balls.

 Cottonmouth, or having a mouth and throat as dry as the Sahara Desert after consuming cannabis, is one of the odder side effects of weed.

When it strikes, all bets are off — you will try anything to get saliva flowing again. 

What is cannabis cottonmouth?

Cannabis cottonmouth, or as it’s officially known, xerostomia, is when the mouth and throat dry out after cannabis use.

When xerostomia sets in, saliva production in the mouth decreases, and with less natural lubricant in the mouth, talking and swallowing become more challenging. Xerostomia can arise when we consume cannabis, but it can also be triggered by aging, certain medications or even dehydration. The term “xerostomia” refers to a symptom or sensation, rather than a specific medical condition (Leafly).

Most smokers have experienced the condition at some point.

Symptoms of Cottonmouth

  • typically begins within 30-60 mins
  • unquenchable thirst
  • a noticeably dry mouth, throat, and tongue
  • difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • cracked lips

“Cottonmouth typically occurs during the peak effects of cannabis use, and can last for several hours depending on the amount of cannabis a user ingests,” said Ethan Pompeo, Founder and CEO of Green Valley Nutrition (Leafly).

What Causes it?

When it comes to identifying a cauase, there’s convincing evidence from animal studies that THC is a major factor due to its effects on CB1 receptors.

CB1 receptors are one of the two major endocannabinoid receptors in the human body with which THC interacts. THC binds with CB1 receptors located in different parts of our body, kicking off effects such as euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief.

There are CB1 receptors in our salivary glands, which is why THC can affect saliva production.

Is This a Bad Thing?

No, not necessarily. There is no danger associated with a dry mouth or throat after cannabis use. It’s just unpleasant for a little bit of time.

However, over the long term, issues may arise. Having a dry mouth frequently can also provoke oral health issues.

Did you know that saliva plays a critical role in oral health by protecting the teeth and mouth from bacteria settling in? When saliva production is interrupted for long periods, plaque can build up, leading to tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections such as candidiasis, and halitosis (bad breath). 

Research shows that 70% of people who experience xerostomia regularly have tooth decay in at least one place compared with 56% of those who don’t experience dry mouth. Essentially, the evidence suggests that the more frequently the mouth is dry, the greater the likelihood of developing oral health issue (Leafly).

**Here is your friendly reminder to make that dentist appointment for a cleaning!

Things to Try

  • Stay hydrated, water is best!
  • Use saliva-stimulating products such as: sugar-free candy, unsweetened beverages, or chewing gum
  • Minimize sugar, caffeine, and alcohol consumption, these substances can also dehydrate the body
  • Brush teeth frequently

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