Marijuana is truly a miracle plant, and now more than ever, further studies are confirming that this crop has the potential to assist with the symptoms of a number of different illnesses and medical conditions.
Apart from the medical aspects, cannabis also has multidimensional effects that so many adore.
C’mon, who doesn’t love a little bit of THC to chill-out and relieve the stress after a long day at work or first thing in the morning to get the day rolling?!
The problem is that smoking too much marijuana has been known to cause bad breath. This is due to the xerostomia side effect, colloquially referred to as cottonmouth or dry mouth. In the past, cottonmouth was believed to be a reaction to harsh smoke irritating the mouth’s sensitive membranes. Cottonmouth is now better understood as a reaction to the THC cannabinoid in cannabis, which inhibits the production of saliva in the mouth.
We all have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our bodies which interacts with the cannabinoids in cannabis when we consume it. The ECS is a biological system with many different functions. It consists of our own naturally occurring cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids, cannabis receptors, and enzymes.
Our submandibular glands, which are located under the jaw bone, are responsible for 70% of saliva production in our mouths. Crucially, though, our submandibular glands also contain cannabinoid receptors. So, when we consume cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) binds to these receptors and prevents our ECS from sending the signal to our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to continue producing saliva. This results in the cottonmouth, a side effect which most cannabis consumers will have experienced at one stage or another in the past.
Saliva is kind of like your mouth’s defense system.
Produced in salivary glands, saliva is 98% water, but it contains many important substances, including electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and various enzymes. If you are not producing an adequate amount of saliva, bad breath is almost always sure to follow.
How to Know if You’re on Your Way to Bad Breath
First and foremost, it is imperative to keep up with your dental hygiene. Before bad breath appears, you’ll probably notice:
- Changed sense of taste. Food simply won’t taste the same.
- Your mouth with constantly feel dry.
- It will be hard to swallow.
- You’ll look in the mirror and see lots of dental plaque.
- Corners of your lips will become dry.
The main thing to look out for is a dry mouth. Remember to always stay hydrated and try not to drink sugary beverages as they will dehydrate your mouth even more.
Tips to Avoid Bad Breath and Not Cut Back on Weed
Here are some tricks to help you avoid bad breath without having to cut back on consuming cannabis:
- The simplest solutions are often the best ones. Always have a bottle of water at hand to counteract cottonmouth. Regularly sipping water while you smoke will help to keep your mouth moist and should lessen the cottonmouth effect.
- If you are using a vape, bong, or any other contraption, clean it thoroughly. Mold and bacteria love to linger around them. They then spread to your mouth next time you take a puff.
- Avoid consuming sugary foods after you smoke marijuana. If you do get the munchies, make sure you are eating foods with antioxidants, as eating too many sugary foods can contribute to cottonmouth.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or other energy drinks with caffeine in them as they will dehydrate you and exacerbate the cottonmouth effect.
- You may have heard that other methods of consuming cannabis, such as vaping, dabbing, or edibles, don’t cause weed breath, but this is a myth. Once the cannabis receptors in your submandibular glands interact with THC and prevent your ECS from sending out the saliva production signal to the PNS, then you’re going to get cottonmouth.
- Tobacco can cause bad breath, too, so if you are rolling a spliff, why not try rolling it with a natural alternative to tobacco, such as mint leaves. One thing to consider is that the menthol in mint leaves can overpower the terpene content of your cannabis. You may have fresher breath, but you may not be able to taste the flavors of a strain as much.
- Alternatively, you can simply opt for some mints or chewing gum to mask the smell. Mints and gum are an excellent choice, particularly if you are on the go.
- Mouthwash can also mask the smell temporarily. Dentist and bacteriologist, Dr. Harold Katz – nicknamed the “Bad Breath Guru” – developed a mouthwash known as TheraBreath, as well as lozenges to treat bad breath. TheraBreath contains the enzymes which are present in natural saliva. It also contains plant-derived glycerin as well as a jambu flower extract.
- Xylimelts, by OraCoat, is another option. Xylimelts are oral-adhering discs which stick to your teeth or gums, which slowly release a half gram of xylitol and an oral lubricant which reportedly stimulates saliva production. By coating, lubricating and moisturizing your mouth, Xylimelts are very effective at preventing cottonmouth, and therefore weed breath. You have a choice between mint and mild-mint Xylimelts, and the effects reportedly last for hours.
- A second option from OraCoat is XyliGel, which is a soothing gel used to treat dry mouth and tooth decay. XyliGel coats the mouth with 17% xylitol and a lubricant to counteract the effects of xerostomia (dry mouth). It is non-acidic and deliberately engineered to have a pH level of 7.4, which is best for the mouth. It also reportedly promotes saliva production. However, it is important to note that OraCoat explicitly says on their website that the Food and Drug Administration has not independently verified their claim regarding this.
Final Thoughts on Ways to Prevent Weed Breath
Cottonmouth is a very common side effect associated with cannabis use. Most believe it is a small price to pay for enjoying all of the benefits cannabis has to offer.
While cottonmouth isn’t harmful, it is slightly unpleasant, and the weed breath it leads to is very unpleasant!
Thankfully there are a number of solutions out there. A bottle of water is the go-to solution for most cannabis smokers, as are, mints and chewing gum. A number of new products are out there too, such as TheraBreath mouthwash, which contains the enzymes which naturally occur in saliva. Alternatively, you could try Xylimelts or XyliGel, which reportedly stimulate saliva production and lubricate the mouth.
Now that you know how to keep cottonmouth at bay, want to smoke awesome strains that are SUPER high in THC? Here are our top contenders: