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What Are the Different Causes of Thick Saliva?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Almost everyone can recall a time when they felt their saliva in a more-than-usual viscosity. This state of thick saliva can be very uncomfortable, but most people usually just follow their natural urge to hydrate, and an hour or so later, they are back to normal. Only a select few are more curiously concerned with the circumstances surrounding their thick saliva. While most commonly caused by dehydration, there are many things that cause thick saliva, including genetics or allergic reactions.

Like most conditions, having thick saliva can be described scientifically. Sjogren's syndrome is used to characterize this state of dry mouth and molasses-like saliva. There are very rare cases in which some sort of genetic ailment or allergic reaction can cause the thickening of saliva. In reality, it is most likely due to dehydration.

Pancake batter and saliva are not often compared to one another, but in the case of thick saliva, one can be used to illustrate the other. Adding or taking water away from pancake batter mix demonstrates how the amount of liquid alters the thickness of the batter. While adding water can make batter thin and runny, taking water away or using less results in a very stable, viscous mixture. Saliva is like batter in this way; when water is plentiful in the body, saliva runs abundantly. As the body dehydrates, though, saliva takes a hit and turns into thick batter.

The best way to avoid the discomforts of thick saliva, therefore, is to stay hydrated. Dehydration basically comes from one of two things, extreme physical exertion or lack of water intake. A person engaging in exercise or a physically demanding behavior should make it a priority to stay hydrated throughout the process.

Experts say that dehydration occurs prior to the sensation of thirst. So, even if a person is not necessarily thirsty, he or she should still be drinking water periodically to prevent thick saliva. One way to be sure hydration states are normal is to drink a set amount of water in particular increments of time relative to the amount of exercise.

Although thick saliva can be very annoying and uncomfortable, it is relatively easy to avoid. Following these steps is a surefire way to prevent thick pancake batter in the mouth. If the problem persists, a health care professional should be consulted as other conditions may be present.

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Discussion Comments

By anon925081 — On Jan 09, 2014

It could be from sinus drainage. It also could mean you're pregnant, and of course, that you're not getting enough water in your diet. I get it when I have a sinus issues and can feel the nasal drip in the back of my throat.. Also they say anxiety and stress can cause it, maybe due to your stomach acids getting all crazy.

By anon342076 — On Jul 17, 2013

My partner has very thick saliva, and it really makes me uncomfortable when we are kissing. We are trying to work towards resolving this problem. Please help because this is really a problem for me especially.

By candyquilt — On Feb 25, 2013

As far as I know, anxiety and some anti-anxiety medications can also cause thick saliva.

I started experiencing dry mouth and thick saliva when I developed an anxiety disorder. I was prescribed anti-anxiety medications which made things worse. I asked my doctor about it and he said it's nothing to worry about. I also read the side effects on the label of the medication and it lists dry mouth as a symptom.

I just drink more water to deal with it but it's very annoying.

Has anyone else here experienced thick saliva due to medications or due to anxiety?

By burcidi — On Feb 25, 2013

@alisha-- Do you mean phlegm (mucus)?

Phlegm is common when sick. It's usually caused by an infection, either an upper respiratory infection affecting the lungs and throat or a sinus infection.

Phlegm and saliva are not the same thing. Phlegm is produced by mucus membranes whereas saliva is produced by the salivary glands. Saliva is mostly a water substance that coats our mouth. It serves various purposes like protecting us from infections and helping with digestion.

It's normal to have phlegm when you're sick, but it's not normal for saliva to become thick. Thick saliva means that there is another, more serious problem.

By discographer — On Feb 24, 2013

When I have a cold, my saliva seems to become very thick, especially when I first wake up in the morning. Is this normal?

By BookWhisk — On Feb 23, 2013

I love gulping huge quantities of water when I 'm thirsty!

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