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Why Does Marijuana Cause Cottonmouth?

vector illustration of mouth and tongue sticking out with cottonballs as background

Cottonmouth, aka “dry mouth,” is one of the most common side effects of marijuana use and is caused by a slowdown in saliva production. This slowdown occurs due to substances in the cannabis plant called cannabinoids, with the most commonly used being THC and CBD. These cannabinoids bind to the part of your brain that controls saliva secretion causing a saliva shortage and the feeling of “cottonmouth” or widespread oral dryness.

Learn what causes cottonmouth and how to stop it when consuming cannabis.

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What Is Cottonmouth?

Cottonmouth is a dry sensation in the mouth that may occur after consuming cannabis. Quite literally, it could feel as though you have cotton balls in your mouth. You may feel less saliva in your mouth and dryness that extends into the throat. This widespread dryness may also make you feel like you have a sore throat.

Fortunately, cottonmouth is temporary and generally resolves when the other physical and psychoactive effects of cannabis wear off. However, persistent dry mouth can lead to oral health issues. Be aware if you are experiencing any of the following:

These issues likely have causes unrelated to cannabis use, but chronic cottonmouth from frequent marijuana use can exacerbate them. Consult with your dentist if you are concerned about cottonmouth and experiencing any of the above chronic oral health problems.


The salivary glands produce less saliva when you consume marijuana. This decrease in saliva occurs due to the interaction of cannabis with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Your ECS is your body’s master regulator that oversees many essential functions such as sleep and fertility and the saliva produced in the salivary glands (including the submandibular glands). Usually, your parasympathetic nervous system receives messages to produce saliva, but these messages are “intercepted” by cannabinoids.

In addition, cannabis also affects the lacrimal glands that produce tears. As the chemical compounds in the plant attach to cannabinoid receptors in the body, your lacrimal glands will also produce fewer tears. Red eyes, another common side effect of cannabis use, result from decreased lacrimal gland activity.

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Tips for Preventing Cottonmouth From Cannabis Use

To prevent cottonmouth, consider consuming cannabis in lower doses or portions. Higher doses and larger portions of cannabis edibles increase the likelihood of developing cottonmouth.

Note that cannabis consumption doesn’t always lead to cottonmouth, even if you take a higher dose. Side effects differ widely among individuals, and a dose that might make someone else’s mouth feel like a desert could not affect you.

That said, if you’re one of the many marijuana users who does experience dry mouth, here are some tips to prevent cottonmouth:

  • Stay hydrated when consuming cannabis and drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.
  • Many people find relief from cannabis dry mouth by chewing gum, so try popping a piece of sugarless gum into your mouth and chewing to stimulate saliva production.
  • Refrain from drinking coffee, as caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing you to urinate more frequently and dehydrating the body.
  • Avoid alcohol, which is not advisable to consume with cannabis under any circumstances. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, and excessive use may lead to other health issues.
  • Suck on a lemon, as citrus fruits stimulate saliva production. However, be careful with this method, as the acidity of citrus fruits can erode tooth enamel.
  • Eat an orange or other water-dense fruit to hydrate and rehydrate when smoking weed. Watermelon, tomatoes, and peaches are among the most hydrating fruits you can eat and are certainly better than snacking on junk food.
  • Pop a lozenge or hard candy into your mouth to help stimulate your salivary glands. Choose a sugar-free lozenge or candy if sugar is a concern.
  • Consume water-rich vegetables like cucumber (96% water), celery, and spinach. These vegetables are not only hydrating but also packed with key nutrients for optimal health.
  • Hydrate your environment with a humidifier. Home humidifiers relieve cottonmouth and may help soothe dry skin and allergies.
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The Bottom Line

Cottonmouth is a minor but irritating side effect for many cannabis users. Fortunately, there are things you can try to avoid. Starting with a lower dose or staying hydrated may be all it takes to rid yourself of dry mouth for good! But, if you find that your dry mouth is paired with unrelenting bad breath, tooth decay, or gum irritation, it may be worth reaching out to your dentist for a checkup.

Finally, suppose you want to integrate cannabis into a healthy lifestyle with a medical marijuana card. In that case, Leafwell’s clinic is open, and our medical professionals are here to help you apply for your MMJ card online.

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