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Have you ever noticed your mouth turns dry when you’re in a stressful situation, like before giving a speech in public? And did you know that when you’re about to get sick from vomiting, saliva floods into your mouth? Our mouths produce saliva to chew and swallow and maintain healthy gums and teeth, but the amount and consistency of saliva can vary considerably, from clear and free-flowing to thick, stringy, sticky or foamy. If you find you regularly have foamy saliva, it’s probably a sign of dry mouth.

What Is Healthy Saliva?

Saliva is almost as unique to each person as their fingerprints. Its texture and quantity frequently change, so there isn’t one type that’s normal. However, in a healthy mouth, saliva keeps all the surfaces moist. A consistently low level of saliva can spell trouble for dental health.

According to Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH, writing for RDH Magazine, saliva washes away food debris, reduces the growth of mouth bacteria and remineralizes tooth enamel. Without the protective effect of saliva, the mouth becomes dry and the risk of cavities and gum disease increases. What’s more, people with dry mouth can find chewing and swallowing difficult. They may also develop bad breath, mouth sores and infections.

Foamy Saliva

Saliva that forms a white foam can be a sign of dry mouth. You might notice the foamy saliva at the corners of your mouth, as a coating on your tongue or elsewhere inside your mouth. Additionally, you may experience other symptoms of dry mouth, like a rough tongue, cracked lips or a dry, sticky or burning feeling.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth isn’t a disease by itself, but it is a symptom of many oral and whole body conditions as well as a side effect of a range of medications. Some causes of dry mouth include:

  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Nervousness
  • Sjögren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder)
  • Antidepressants
  • Painkillers
  • Sinus medications
  • Diuretics
  • Cancer treatment, notes Cancer Care Nova Scotia
  • Diabetes medication and high blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association
  • Cancer of the salivary glands

Sometimes, dry mouth and foamy saliva occurs only at night, due to mouth-breathing while asleep. Wearing a dental appliance or device to prevent sleep apnea at night can cause mouth-breathing, and allergies, colds, sinusitis and deformities of the nasal passage can have the same effect. If a dry mouth is due to breathing through the mouth at night, the saliva is normal during the day. 

Preventing Dry Mouth and Foamy Saliva

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing them once a day become even more important when you have dry mouth. You should also rinse once a day with a mouthwash like Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield, which kills 99 percent of germs on contact with no burn of alcohol.

If you have saliva that’s regularly foamy for no reason as well as other symptoms of dry mouth, those could be signs of a serious health condition. Make an appointment with your dentist and explain your symptoms. They can work with you to find out what’s wrong, reduce your symptoms and maintain your dental health.