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What Are the Common Causes of Salty Saliva?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common cause of salty saliva occurs when dehydration sets in from excessive perspiration or insufficient fluid intake. Medication used to treat certain conditions might also produce salty tasting saliva. Other possible causes of salty saliva include sinus infections, overproduction of tear ducts, diseases of the salivary glands, and vitamin deficiencies. Blood in the mouth from injury or disease might also produce saliva with a salty or metallic taste.

Patients using medication for thyroid conditions might experience salty saliva as a side effect of drugs. Chemotherapy drugs might also produce similar sensitivities to taste. Hundreds of medications can change the way taste is perceived by altering the way taste buds work. A doctor might prescribe alternate medication for patients who experience taste irregularities as a side effect.

Sinus infections with post-nasal drip might also make saliva taste like salt. Usually, once the infection clears up, saliva loses its salty flavor. Sjogren’s syndrome defines a rare autoimmune disorder that damages glands that produce saliva and tears. When less saliva is produced, it may take on a salty taste. The most common symptom of this disease is dry mouth.

Overactive tear ducts might produce excessive tears that drain to the back of the throat and gives the sensation of salty saliva. Saliva and tears both contain sodium and chloride, the two elements that make up salt. Normal saliva does not taste salty because the body adapts to low levels of these chemicals. If the amount of sodium chloride in spit increases from medication or disease, salty saliva occurs.

Saliva performs several important functions as a lubricant, antibacterial fluid, and digestive aid. It moistens food to make chewing and swallowing easier, and partially breaks down starch in food. Enzymes in saliva start the process of digesting fats in the diet. Saliva also activates taste buds to give different foods distinctive flavors.

This fluid is important as a lubricant in the mouth to protect soft tissue from abrasion by teeth. Chemicals in saliva make speaking easier, along with swallowing. It neutralizes acid that can damage tooth enamel and dilutes bacteria in the mouth. People who become dehydrated might notice a dry mouth and salty saliva as first symptoms. Increasing fluid intake typically resolves the problem.

A deficiency in zinc or vitamin B12 might produce salty saliva, but these disorders are considered rare. A doctor can check blood levels in patients who experience changes in taste or the amount of saliva. Healthy people produce up to 6 cups (about 1.5 liters) of saliva each day, with most of it swallowed.

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Discussion Comments

By anon995398 — On Apr 25, 2016

When I'm having intense stomach cramps, the salty saliva starts, and sometimes within a few minutes, I get the heaves. The doctors said they didn't know what causes this reaction to stomach cramps.

By giddion — On Aug 17, 2012

I have salty saliva for hours after I consume a super salty meal. This usually only happens when I eat at restaurants, because they put way more salt in their food than I ever would at home.

I remember having extremely salty saliva for hours after eating chipotle chicken and fries. Both items were loaded with sodium, and though they had a good flavor, the salt was just too much.

I drank way too much tea trying to get rid of the saltiness. It didn't work. I just had to wait for it to pass out of my system.

By feasting — On Aug 16, 2012

@JackWhack – I can't imagine living with that all the time! I have had sinus infections with salty saliva before, but they always went away after I took antibiotics.

I have allergies in the spring, but I don't have them throughout the rest of the year unless I am exposed to a particular allergen. These spring allergies often bring about a sinus infection, which causes my mucus to drip into my throat and my nose to become congested.

The salty saliva is rather disgusting, because I know that it has mucus in it. It just seems wrong for that to be in my throat!

By JackWhack — On Aug 15, 2012

I struggle with allergies year round, and the post-nasal drip makes my saliva salty. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, gagging on the mucus that has dripped into my throat. It always has a salty flavor.

Drinking water to wash it down helps a little, but it always returns. I am on antihistamines, but they can only do so much.

I have found that elevating my head on two pillows at night cuts down on the choking. I still have the salty taste, though.

By Kristee — On Aug 15, 2012

My saliva became salty while I was taking a diuretic. This drug made me extremely thirsty, and no amount of water could quench my thirst.

I had to urinate a scary amount every half hour. My mouth became dry, and though I sipped on water constantly, I felt dehydrated.

I had to stop taking the diuretic, because it affected my blood pressure. I was glad to see the salty saliva return to normal within a day or two.

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