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Marijuana & Cotton Mouth

Colorado has long attracted tourists from around the world, who come to marvel at the majestic Rockies. But now visitors are coming for a different reason...you guessed it! Legalized marijuana. If you're planning to partake, it's important to be aware of the side effects, one of which is dry mouth.

THC Causes Dry MouthCannabinoid Receptors

Dry mouth, also known as cotton mouth, is a common side effect of marijuana. You might think that it only results from smoking, but ingesting marijuana in any form can leave you short on saliva. That's because of a system in our bodies called the cannabinoid system and the way that THC affects that system. In short, there are cannabinoid receptors in the submandibular glands – a pair of glands located beneath the floor of the mouth that are responsible for producing the majority of our saliva. When a cannabinoid (like THC) binds to a receptor, the submandibular glands stop receiving messages from the parasympathetic nervous system and therefore stop producing saliva.

Importance of Saliva

Salivary GlandsSo, what's the big deal about saliva? In addition to playing a critical role in digestion, saliva maintains your mouth health. According to the American Dental Association, "Saliva washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth, offering first-line protection against microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease." So, prolonged dry mouth or lack of saliva can lead to serious tooth decay.

The takeaway here: a dry mouth isn't a happy mouth. If you notice you're low on saliva, make sure to talk with your dentist about possible causes. Addressing the problem early will help prevent further damage from the condition.

Photo Credit: Truth on Pot, I Heart Guts

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