Thick saliva might be a sign of various medical conditions. It is important to note that saliva has a vital role in aiding with digestion by breaking down and softening food. Oftentimes, certain health conditions, medications and environmental factors can affect the consistency and production of saliva, making it thick or resulting to postnasal drip.
What are the possible causes of thick saliva?
There are various conditions that can lead to thick saliva.
Those who are under radiation therapy in the neck area and head might have thick saliva to varying degrees. The treatment can irritate the salivary glands, thus slowing down the production of saliva.
Dry mouth syndrome
Once the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva, it can cause the mouth to feel dry or parched. A sign of the condition is stringy or thick saliva since there is lack of moisture in the mouth to thin it.
In case the body loses more fluid, dehydration is likely. Dry mouth is one sign of dehydration and the saliva can thicken as a response to the lack of fluids in the body.
The nose and throat produce mucus to filter out foreign material, moisten the nasal membranes and fight infection. Oftentimes, there is excess production of mucus especially if the individual has a cold or seasonal allergy.
If an individual has postnasal drip, it forces the individual to breathe via the mouth which causes the mouth to dry up and the saliva to thicken.
Side effects of certain medications
Various medications both over-the-counter and prescription can result to thick saliva. Some of these drugs include:
- Pain medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Chemotherapy drugs
Other possible causes include:
- Motor neuron disease
- Salivary duct stones
- Cystic fibrosis
- Salivary gland disorders
Management of thick saliva
There are various ways to manage thick saliva which is based on the root cause.
Some of the general treatment options include:
- Changing medications
- Brushing and flossing at least twice a day
- Use prescription saliva substitutes suggested by the doctor or dentist
- Avoid caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, abrasive mouth rinse, soft drinks, orange juice and spicy foods
- Remove partial or full dentures before sleeping at night
- Use an over-the-counter treatment for dry mouth
- Provide chewy foods, chewing gum or sugar-free hard candies to stimulate the salivary gland function
- Drink 8-10 glasses of fluids daily
- Suck on ice cubes
- Use a humidifier in the bedroom