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Thick Saliva? What is it, and what to do

If you have thick and viscous saliva, here are a few things to keep your eye on, and what you can do to address thick saliva and bad breath. 

Thick saliva: causes and concerns

In isolation, thick saliva can simply be a result of breathing through your mouth rather than through your nose or drinking too little water. This is why you’ll most often notice it first thing in the morning, when you’ll naturally be slightly dehydrated and you’re more likely to breathe through your mouth whilst asleep. It might also be a side effect of medication you are taking – particularly antidepressants and antihistamines – so if this applies to you, check the information leaflet in the box.

As well as thick saliva, you might also notice bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth. Again, this can be caused by dehydration and a dry mouth; other common causes include the common cold or sinus infections (which tend to encourage mouth breathing).

If your gums are bleeding when you brush your teeth, or one or more of your teeth is sensitive or changing colour, it is time to see a dentist. You should also look out for white patches on your tongue, which could indicate oral thrush, a consequence of dry mouth.

If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk of a dry mouth with the complications of oral thrush, gingivitis, periodontitis (a more serious form of gum disease), and tooth decay. Diabetes sufferers who notice thick saliva and bad breath should take extra care to see a dentist as soon as possible. Don’t forget if you notice any of these other problems to seek advice from your dentist.

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What you can do about thick and sticky saliva

The first thing to do when you notice thick saliva is to have a drink of water. This will address the most obvious possible cause and should provide a little short-term relief. If that doesn’t sort out the bad breath and unpleasant taste, try stimulating the salivary glands by chewing sugar-free gum.

Choosing the right toothpaste can also help. SLS is an ingredient often found in toothpastes that may cause irritation to the mouth and may contribute to mouth dryness. Zendium toothpastes do not contain SLS. Saliva is important to keep the mouth healthy including through enzymes and proteins in saliva that naturally protect the mouth. Zendium contains natural enzymes and proteins to protect the mouth naturally and uses mild ingredients to respect the mouth’s delicate tissues and is therefore suitable for people with dry mouth.

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Changing your routine and diet could help reduce thick and viscous saliva in the longer term. One obvious dietary cause of dehydration and dry mouth in adults is alcohol. If you do drink, try to have one glass of water per unit of alcohol and one more before bed. If you use an alcohol mouthwash, switch to an alcohol-free one like Zendium to keep that dry mouth feeling at bay.

Tobacco has also been proven to reduce saliva production over time1, so quitting smoking will increase your saliva production and relieve that thick saliva and dry mouth.

To prevent thick saliva causing some oral care problems like gingivitis and tooth decay, it is important to have a solid oral care routine. Brush twice a day and floss once a day and remember to schedule regular check-ups with your dentist.

There you have it: a summary of what causes thick and sticky saliva, other things to look out for, and how to address the symptoms.