Cannabis Science

What Causes Cottonmouth?

blonde woman smoking weed with cottonmouth

For cannabis enthusiasts, experiencing cottonmouth is just a small price to pay for the euphoria. However, if you’re curious about what causes cottonmouth and what to do about it, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know. 

Photo: Unsplash

Cottonmouth Causes

Wondering what makes your mouth dry after using your bong?

Surprise, it’s not because of dehydration. There’s no evidence that smoking weed causes dehydration. 

According to Dr. David Berger, owner of Wholistic ReLeaf, Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care, and health education company, Dr. David, MD, cottonmouth or xerostomia is a common side effect of marijuana and is caused by cannabinoid interaction with the endocannabinoid system.

“It is believed to occur because plant-based cannabinoids stimulate CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors (our own cannabis receptors) on cells that make saliva at a stronger rate than the endocannabinoids that our bodies make. CB1 receptors predominantly modulate the flow of saliva, while CB2 receptors seem to influence [the] consistency and content of saliva.” 

Therefore, it’s not that your edible is making you thirsty, it’s just affecting your saliva production. 

In addition, while smoking could dry out your mouth and throat, it’s not the cause of cottonmouth. You could get cottonmouth after eating an edible too. 

Is Cottonmouth Dangerous? 

Even though cottonmouth can be uncomfortable, it can cause other problems.

According to The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, besides making it uncomfortable to eat, swallow, and talk, cottonmouth can be bad for your health.

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“Dry mouth also increases the risk for tooth decay or fungal infections in the mouth because saliva helps keep harmful germs in check.”

As a matter of fact, using weed can have various effects on your oral health.

Besides the dry mouth, cannabis enthusiasts tend to reach for sugary snacks when they have the munchies. 

Munching on sugary snacks can increase your risk of cavities.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up weed, it just means you have to be conscious of your munchies snacks and keep up with your dental visits.

In addition, you can try to treat your dry mouth.  

How to Fix Cottonmouth 

The best way to not have cottonmouth is to avoid weed.

However, if that’s not an option, there are ways you can make your mouth more comfortable. 

For example, you can opt for a dry mouth spray. 

Colgate says, “To relieve dryness, mouth sprays act as a saliva substitute. Though not a perfect match for the beneficial saliva your body produces, a mouth spray has its benefits. By leaving a protective film of moisture on your oral tissues, a spray can temporarily relieve that dry feeling in your mouth.”

Of course, there are a lot of dry mouth sprays on the market, so it’s hard to know which one to pick.

Colgate recommends getting a dry mouth spray with xylitol.

Remember, when it wears off, your cottonmouth with come back, this is a temporary fix. 

Another way to treat cottonmouth is to keep hydrated. You can always keep a bottle of water nearby when you have a smoking sesh. 

Berger says, “Staying well hydrated, especially when consuming cannabis, can help mitigate xerostomia.”

While you’re getting hydrated, The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says to pick up some gum.

“Chewing sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow; citrus, cinnamon, or mint-flavored candies are good choices. Some sugarless chewing gums and candies contain xylitol and may help prevent cavities.”

What Makes Cottonmouth Worse?

While there are ways to temporarily relieve cottonmouth, there are also things you can do that won’t make your cottonmouth worse.

For example, there are some drinks you can avoid when stoned.

Even though hydration is important, not all drinks were created equally. 

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says that drinks containing caffeine such as coffee, tea or sodas can dry out your mouth further. In addition to caffeine-containing drinks, they recommend avoiding alcohol too because it can worsen your cottonmouth. 

Besides drinks, spicy food could aggravate your cottonmouth.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says that spicy or even salty food could cause pain or a burning sensation if you have a dry mouth. 

In addition, you can opt for alcohol-free mouthwash since as we mentioned alcohol does a good job of drying out your mouth. 

The University of Florida Health also says to avoid:

  • Tobacco and tobacco products
  • Acidic foods such as orange juice
  • Dry or rough foods
  • Sugary drinks


So, what causes cottonmouth? Cottonmouth is caused by the cannabinoids in weed interacting with the receptors in your endocannabinoid system. The cannabinoids seem to impact saliva production, hence why your mouth feels dry. Cottonmouth doesn’t really have anything to do with smoking although it could make your mouth feel worse. Fortunately, there are tons of things you can do to alleviate cottonmouth including dry mouth sprays. 

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About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].

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