When all is well in your mouth, you probably don't pay much attention to your saliva. It's there, doing its job to help break down food, rinse food bits off your teeth and protect your mouth from infection. But if your saliva suddenly feels thick or sticky, you're likely wondering what's wrong.
Sticky saliva can make it difficult to swallow, speak and keep your mouth clean. Here's an overview of what causes this oral phenomenon and what you can do at home to get your mouth back to normal.
What Causes Sticky Saliva?
Sticky or thick saliva can develop for a variety of reasons:
Stuffy NoseA stuffy nose due to allergies or a cold can cause thick saliva. After going to bed with a stuffy nose, you may wake up the next day with a dry, sticky mouth that feels covered in mucus. Nasal congestion often forces you to breathe with your mouth open, which can subsequently dry your mouth and make your saliva thicker and stickier than usual.
Cancer TherapyPeople undergoing radiation therapy to the head or neck may develop dry mouth and thicker saliva. This type of therapy can irritate the saliva glands, causing them to either produce less saliva or produce a thicker, stickier saliva.
DehydrationSticky, thick saliva can also be a sign of dehydration. When you're dehydrated, your body isn't taking in enough fluids to replace those that are lost. A person can become dehydrated for several reasons. If you're sick to the point of vomiting, are not able to keep food or fluids down, or are experiencing severe diarrhoea, you can become dehydrated. These are common causes of dehydration in young children. Additional causes of dehydration include excessive sweating, which can occur if you exercise on a very hot day and don't drink enough fluids, as well as excessive urination, which can occur if you're taking certain medications.
Salivary Duct ObstructionsYour salivary ducts are the tiny channels that pump saliva throughout your mouth. If they become blocked, such as by a salivary stone, your saliva flow can decrease, possibly causing dry mouth and thicker-feeling saliva.
Is Sticky or Thick Saliva a Problem?
Having sticky saliva can be uncomfortable. Your mouth may feel full of mucus or you may find it difficult to swallow. Along with discomfort, thicker saliva can contribute to other problems in your mouth. When saliva is thin and free-flowing, it's able to do its job of washing germs from your teeth, which reduces your risk of gum disease or other infections. But a dry mouth full of thick saliva can put you at a higher risk of tooth cavities and other oral diseases.
Home Remedies for Sticky Saliva
If you're dealing with sticky or thick saliva, what remedies are there? First, it's a good idea to speak to your doctor or dentist to determine the cause, especially if it's an ongoing problem and you're unsure why it's occurring.
In combination with speaking to a medical professional, there are a few things you can try at home to thin your saliva:
- Drink 10 cups of water or liquids a day.
- Stay away from thick, sticky foods, such as nut butter, and try to eat more foods that are soft or that have a high moisture content.
- Lean over a steaming bowl of hot water with a towel over your head to loosen thick saliva.
- Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which can contribute to mouth dryness.
If your thick saliva persists despite these at-home remedies, your doctor or dentist can recommend the next steps to help you feel more comfortable.