Cotton mouth. It has become almost a punch line among marijuana enthusiasts. It’s not just folk lore and it’s not all in the mind, a collection of research has shown that dry mouth is more prevalent as cannabis use increases. It’s not a laughing matter for some users. Saliva plays an important role in our health and deserves more of our attention.
Saliva is created by our salivary glands, which are really a collection of four types of glands, that each secrete different substances through ducts distributed throughout the mouth. Together, the secretions make up the concoction of water, electrolytes and enzymes that function to keep our mouth healthy and help to begin the digestion process. When this process is interrupted, we can experience a dry mouth.
Spit. Taken for granted, we can forget that saliva protects and lubricates the mouth, helps us speak, eat, taste food and swallow. It also protects the throat, mouth and teeth from viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms. Without sufficient stores of saliva, we run a higher risk for tooth decay and cavities. It increases the risk of periodontal disease and even loss of teeth.
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Xerostomia is the proper name and it can be common for pot smokers as well as those taking cannabis concentrates in pill form as well.
This is not a side effect unique to marijuana. Over 1,800 medicines list dry mouth as a possible side effect. Fortunately, in most cases, regular saliva flow is typically restored once the medicine use is discontinued.
Patients with cancer who have experienced radiation treatments to the head, face or neck can lose function of salivary glands as well. In these cases, the condition can last months or longer.
What can a cannabis user do?
The American Dental Association suggests regular visits to your dentist as well as chewing sugar-free gum and brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. Other professionals also suggest reduction in citrus based food and drinks as well as alcohol based breath sprays, mouthwashes and beverages because they tend to further dry the mouth. Over the counter sprays and gums that aid in keeping the mouth moist are also available any most local drug stores.
For all the benefit moderate cannabis use can bring, don’t let dry mouth spoil things. A bit of knowledge, regular professional dentist visits and attention to the types of food and drink you select should help you mitigate the problem.