Cotton Mouth or Cottonmouth

Cotton Mouth/cottonmouth is a noun that describes an extreme dryness of the mouth that can come as a side effect of using cannabis. 

Cotton Mouth/Cottonmouth: Usage and Meaning

Although back in the day some believed that cottonmouth was caused by the smoke itself, not the cannabis, we now know that there is in fact a connection between xerostomia, the technical name for cotton mouth or dry mouth, and cannabis use.


  • “Dude, pass me my drink, I’m practically choking from cotton mouth.”
  • “I always bring a big water bottle if I’m going to have a smoke session so I won’t be bothered by cottonmouth.”
  • “Is that cotton mouth, or are you just freaked out by talking to me?!”

The Science Behind Cannabis and Cotton Mouth

The body’s endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are present in specific locations in a salivary gland called the submandibular gland. When a person uses cannabinoids, the CB1 and CB2 receptors cause saliva production to drop significantly. This in turn causes the dry mouth sensation.

CB1 receptors primarily modulate saliva flow, while CB2 receptors are more linked to saliva content including sodium levels. However, unlike alcohol consumption, cannabis use does not cause the same dehydration hangover because dry mouth is limited to one area and does not cause dehydration throughout the rest of the body.

Some periodontal research suggests that oral health can be a concern with increased cannabis use, and some of these effects are linked to acts of smoking and/or vaping. However, there can be side effects associated with chronic cotton mouth if it is severe, including from using edibles. Mainly, these are gum disease and tooth decay, and symptoms that go with those problems, such as bad breath, and red, tender, bleeding, or swollen gums.

It is important to note that cannabis is not the only medicine that can cause cottonmouth or xerostomia. In fact, this is a known side effect of various over the counter medications such as Benadryl, and prescription medications such as cancer radiation treatments and opiates.

How to Combat Cotton Mouth

According to the American Dental Association, like everyone else, cannabis users should brush their teeth at least two times daily using fluoride-enriched toothpaste, chew sugar-free gum, and maintain regular visits with a dentist. Especially for people with sensitive teeth, some doctors recommend avoiding anything that can dry out the mouth, such as mouth wash, beverages, and breath sprays as well as citrus.

Sugar-free gum in particular is an excellent idea for keeping a higher level of saliva production up to cope with cotton mouth. It does this by blocking the ECS from itself limiting saliva production.

Clearly, it also soothes the sensation of cotton mouth to stay hydrated. Drink water or herbal tea, and remember that sugary drinks as well as caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you and make it worse. Hard candies and mints are another great option.

Cotton Mouth Definition
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