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What can thick and sticky saliva tell you about your health?

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

Saliva plays an important role when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy, including through the production of enzymes and proteins that contribute to overall oral hygiene. But having sticky saliva in the back of your throat or no saliva in your mouth can be an uncomfortable feeling. And while it may not be a sign of anything, sticky saliva could indicate something more serious.

Here are a few reasons why you may be experiencing a dry or sticky mouth and what you can do to get your mouth feeling healthy again. 

Thick saliva causes: Why is my saliva so thick?

There are many reasons why you may be experiencing particularly thick or sticky saliva. Some of them are listed below, but if you are worried about your oral health, it is always best to speak to your dentist.

  • Dehydration: Thick saliva can simply be a result of dehydration, which can be cause by drinking too little water, or breathing through your mouth rather than through your nose. This is why you’ll most often notice that you have no saliva in your mouth first thing in the morning, or very thick saliva, as you’ll naturally be slightly dehydrated when you wake up and you’re more likely to breathe through your mouth while asleep. 
  • Dry mouth: If you’re wondering ‘why is my saliva so thick’, the answer could be dry mouth1. If your salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva, you may experience sticky saliva, as there isn’t enough moisture in your mouth to thin it. 
  • Side effect of medication: A potential cause of thick saliva is that it’s a side effect of the medication you are taking – particularly antidepressants and antihistamines – so if this applies to you, check the information leaflet in the box. 
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, your body goes through significant hormonal changes and this means that it is one of the potential thick saliva causes1.  
  • Diabetes: 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.

Other symptoms you may notice if you have thick or sticky saliva

  • Bad breath: 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). 
  • Bleeding gums: 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.

What you can do about thick and sticky saliva

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Having a dry or sticky mouth can be an unpleasant feeling, particularly if you have lots of sticky saliva in the back of your throat. While your dentist will be able to provide a more personalised, long-term solution to the problem, here are some tips to help get your mouth feeling healthy again:  

  • Drink water: 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.  
  • Chew sugar-free gum: If drinking some water doesn’t sort out the bad breath and unpleasant taste, try stimulating the salivary glands by chewing sugar-free gum. 
  • Changing your diet: Changing your routine and diet could help reduce thick and viscous saliva in the longer term2. 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.  
  • Quit smoking: Tobacco has been proven to reduce saliva production over time3, so quitting smoking will increase your saliva production and relieve that thick saliva and dry mouth. 
  • Choose the right toothpaste for your mouth: Choosing the right toothpaste can also help.  SLS is an ingredient often found in toothpastes that may cause irritation in sensitive mouths, contributing to mouth dryness. Zendium toothpastes do not contain SLS and use mild ingredients to respect the mouth’s delicate tissues and is therefore suitable for people with dry mouth.
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  • Choose products that support your saliva’s natural protective qualities: Zendium Saliva Gel, used as a complement to toothbrushing with Zendium toothpaste,  is inspired by the way the mouth naturally protects itself and contains some of the same natural enzymes and proteins found in saliva. 
  • Use alcohol-free mouthwash: Just as drinking alcohol can lead to experiencing a dry or sticky mouth, so too can using a mouthwash with alcohol. Try switching to an alcohol-free mouthwash, like Zendium to keep that dry mouth feeling at bay.
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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 thick saliva causes, how to address the symptoms, and related oral health problems to look out for.

References

1 Healthline – Thick Saliva

2 American Cancer Society – Thick Saliva

3 NCBI – The Effect of Tobacco Smoking on Salivation

The advice in this article does not constitute medical advice; it is solely available for information purposes. We recommend that you consult your dentist if you are experiencing any tooth or gum problems.